General Question

radcliff's avatar

If someone found a black hole, who would you call to test and verify that it really was one?

Asked by radcliff (253 points ) May 12th, 2012

How would they test it?

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11 Answers

ETpro's avatar

Any astronomer or astrophysicist with access to sensitive enough instruments to measure its effects should be able to confirm its presence. We can’t see into a black hole, but we definitely can see its effects. We can observe its gravitational effects and thu discern its mass. And we can see the radiation given off by the energy generated by matter being drawn into it as that material crosses its event horizon. We have observed numerous black holes in this fashion. There is a super-massive one at the center of our own Milky Way Galaxy.

bolwerk's avatar

Basically, what @ETpro said. Also, not all branches of science lend themselves to experimental research. It’s a common misconception that all science is experimental research, but a great deal of it is necessarily theoretical. We can test physical and chemical principles that make studying astronomy possible, however.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

If this was a social question, I could then propose who should be launched into space for us to see if they can in fact could escape the black hole and made the return trip.

Since this is a general question, I would suggest that a reputable experimental cosmologist propose a viable methodology to evaluate this phenomenon.

majorrich's avatar

Too bad this isn’t in the social section because I have a list of people I could recommend. As it is though, I am sure @ETpro is correct that we have sensitive enough instrumentation to make the determination on hand.

radcliff's avatar

What physical and chemical principles could be tested for a black hole by a layman?

PhiNotPi's avatar

@radcliff Really, none of them can be tested by a layman.

All black holes lie an extreme distance away from Earth (where I hope they will stay), so it would be impossible to detect them without a full-scale observatory.

First of all, black holes (unlike most things in the universe) don’t have chemical properties. The physical properties would be the gravitational lensing effect or the high frequency radiation given off by stuff that falls into the black hole.

One method of locating a black hole is by watching the stars that literally appear to be orbiting at high speed around nothing. You can use the speed of the stars to locate where the black hole is and how massive it is.

radcliff's avatar

So, if a black hole were to exist on earth (anything is possible) what would measure the gravitational lensing effect or the high frequency (frequencies) radiation…
.....what instruments?

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

It’s not like you are going to find one lying on the ground somewhere. A stellar-to-planetary mass black hole that found its way into our solar system would disturb the orbits of the planets, asteroids and comets. It would be potentially cataclysmic if it got near the inner solar system. A brush with the Opik-Oort cloud or the Kuiper belt alone could set off a storm of comet bombardment (see Nemesis hypothesis)

A sub-planetary mass black hole isn’t “black” due to Hawking radiation. The lighter they get, the smaller the event horizon and less gravitational influence around it, but the greater the emitted power of the Hawking radiation. A truly small black hole weighing as much as a mountain would appear as a very painfully bright spark as its event horizon is at a tremendous effective temperature. Such an object is far too dense to be supported on the surface of the Earth by normal matter. It would drop right through and oscillate around the center of the earth.

A black hole lighter than a mountain is a very dangerous thing. As it looses mass through emitting Hawking radiation, it gets hotter and thus it looses mass ever faster. It is believed such an object will explode and disappear as it reaches zero mass.

radcliff's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop @PhiNotPi @majorrich @Dr_Lawrence @bolwerk
I’m not a professional in the field of black holes but I do believe we have the technology today to create black holes.

radcliff's avatar

To create them on earth, unfortunately.

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