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Black Holes

April 9, 2015

What happens to all the stuff that gets sucked into black holes?



Artists Conception of a supermassive black hole NASA JPL-Caltech

Artists conception of a supermassive black hole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Where do black holes lead? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Science Update listener Claudia, of Spanish Fort, Alabama emailed us to ask what happens to all the packets of light that get sucked into black holes? In response, NASA physicist Betsy Pugel suggested flushing a toilet.


The force of the black hole, its gravity, pulls everything in, and much like the spiraling motion of the water that you see, the quanta or whatever you want to call them, whether it’s light or some other emission, is like the spiraling of the water going down the toilet.


But where do they go?


I think that’s that great mysterious astrophysical sanitation system unknown out there somewhere.


That’s right: she says while they may go to another space, time, or even universe, the honest answer is “nobody really knows.” If you have a science question, call 1-800-WHY-ISIT or email us from our website,  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.