The Physics Boy

What happens if we fall into a black hole? NASA black hole visualization

What happens if we fall into a black hole
Image Credit: J. Schnittman and B. Powell | NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

We have always been fascinated by the black hole and their existence in the universe. There are huge theories and new research that is being published over the black hole every day, but have you ever wondered what happens if we fall into a black hole?

An astrophysicist named as Jeremy Schnittman at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland has created a visualization where a camera shows what it’s like to be going inside a black hole.

Jeremy Schnittman said:

“People often ask about this, and simulating these difficult-to-imagine processes helps me connect the mathematics of relativity to actual consequences in the real universe.

So I simulated two different scenarios, one where a camera — a stand-in for a daring astronaut — just misses the event horizon and slingshots back out, and one where it crosses the boundary, sealing its fate.”

How this visualization was created?

This inside black hole visualization was created by astrophysicist Jeremy Schnittman and Goddard scientist Brian Powell. They used the NASA Center for Climate Simulation’s Discover supercomputer which generated about 10 terabytes of data utilizing only 0.3% f Discover’s 129,000 processors for 5 days continuously. If the same simulation would have been created on a normal laptop it would have taken more than 10 years.

This visualization created shows a supermassive black hole which is 4.3 million times the mass of our Sun and may be compared to the onle located at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Schnittman explained further as:

“Stellar-mass black holes, which contain up to about 30 solar masses,  possess much smaller event horizons and stronger tidal forces, which can rip apart approaching objects before they get to the horizon.”

This is caused due to the strong gravitational pull by the black hole. On one end which is facing the black hole has much stronger gravitational pull as compared to the other end which is away from black hole. This results the falling object to get stretched like noodles which is called as spaghettification by astrophysics.

black hole with a diameter of 16 million miles - The Physics Boy
Image Credit: J. Schnittman and B. Powell | NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The above picture shows a black hole with a diameter of 16 million miles (25 million kilometers) which is about 17% of the distance of Earth from Sun. The flat glowing gas around the the black hole also known as accretion disk acts as a reference when one falls inside. The ring nearer to the black hole is called photon rings, formed from the light orbiting it one or more times.

The visualization shows that as the camera approaches the approximate speed of light toward the black hole the intensity of light glow of the accretion gets more enhanced just like the Doppler effect. Theses lights appear more brighter when observed in the direction of travel.

In the explainer video the camera is initially located at about 400 million miles (640 million kilometers) away from the black hole. During the flyby the black hole’s disk, photon rings, and the night sky become even more distorted.

If we compare the time between the camera and anyone observing afar, then the camera takes about 3 hours to fall to the event horizon, executing almost two complete 30-minute orbits along the way. However, to any observer afar it would never quite get there. Black holes are referred by astronomers as “frozen stars”. This is justified by the fact that space-time becomes ever more distorted  on getting closer to the horizon, the image of the camera would slow and then seem to freeze.

As according to the special theory of relativity at the event horizon the space-time itself flows inward at the speed of light, the cosmic speed limit. The instant when the camera is inside black hole, both the camera and space-time fabric in which it is moving rush towards its center which is a one-dimensional point of singularity. Singularity is the point where the laws of physics which we know cease to operate.

Schnittman said:

“Once the camera crosses the horizon, its destruction by spaghettification is just 12.8 seconds away.”

From here it is just only 79,500 miles (128,000 kilometers) to the singularity which is the final journey in the blink of an eye.

Now, if an in a spaceship flew for 6-hours round trip while his/her colleagues on a main ship which remained far from the black hole, then the astronaut would return 36 minutes younger than her colleagues. This is due to the reason that time passes more slowly near a strong gravitational force and when moving close to the speed of light.

Reference: NASA