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How do black holes form?

How do black holes form?
St.Anselms RC Primary School (Age 5-14)
Sylvia Kucharska-Nguyen and Year 3 from Kent (Age 5-14)


One Response

  1. The idea that ‘Black Holes’ could exist, came from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. In that theory, Einstein predicted that light beams could actually be bent by very large gravitational fields – such as those created by very big stars. His idea was confirmed during the 1919 total eclipse of the Sun. During a total eclipse, bright stars can be seen in the sky along with the eclipsed Sun. Astronomers took very accurate measurements of the angles between the stars and from this they could see that the stars close to the eclipsed Sun seemed to have slightly shifted in position. This showed that Einstein was correct – the Sun’s gravity had bent the light rays. Now, if a relatively small star like the Sun can bend light rays, what would happen to light coming from a truly enormous star or some other massive body?
    When massive stars use up all their Hydrogen fuel, they can at the end of their active life, collapse under their own gravity to small very dense bodies. It was calculated that a star just 3.7 times the mass of the Sun could collapse to a body so dense and possessing such a strong gravitational field, that nothing, not even light could escape from it. This is a Black Hole. Now, all astronomers had to do was find one and that’s not so easy because they are invisible!
    However, it wasn’t long before astronomers noticed that there was something very strange happening to a star called Cygnus X1. This star had something orbiting it that was drawing off material from the star and disappearing into nothing! Rather like water disappearing down a plug-hole! In doing so it was forming a spiral of very hot matter, so hot it was giving off X-rays. This is one of the first discoveries of a Black Hole. Now, astronomers believe that Black Holes exist at the centres of most spiral galaxies.

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