(As a quick note, both of these pictures are artists’ depiction of black holes- not actual pictures. We have no actual pictures of black holes- we simply know they exist by their gravitational pull, and can locate them this way also.)
This news article that I discovered while browsing the HuffPost talks about black holes. I am currently in an Astronomy class, and the science part of space has always fascinated me, especially mysterious things like black holes (notice I said the science part, not the Math part.) Black holes are so massive that their amazing pull of gravity distorts space and time. They are pitch black because even light cannot escape their gravitational pull- this is why they are still one of the few parts of our world that is unexplored, and why they are so mysterious and fascinating to people.
So what are they?
If you were to take a step into a black hole, your body would most closely resemble “toothpaste being extruded out of the tube,” said Charles Liu, an astrophysicist who works at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. Your body would dissolve into a stream of particles, swirling in the black hole, in just seconds. Liu said that when an object crosses a black hole’s “event horizon”, also known as its “outer boundary” and its “point of no return,” the same physics that causes Earth’s ocean tides begins to take effect. Gravity’s strength decreases with distance, so when that line is crossed, the gravitational pull sucks in everything that crosses, and is so strong that nothing can escapte- in fact, many things are crushed by the sheer force of gravity.
There are, of course, many, many theories about black holes distorting time and space. And the reality is, these theories are not proven wrong or right yet. We simply do not know enough about these black holes to really know their effect on these things. However, here’s a statement from Liu about the possibility of time travel (I thought it was pretty amazing):
“First of all, you approach the speed of light as you fall into the black hole. So the faster you move through space, the slower you move through time,” he said. “Furthermore, as you fall, there are things that have been falling in front of you that have experienced an even greater ‘time dilation’ than you have. So if you’re able to look forward toward the black hole, you see every object that has fallen into it in the past. And then if you look backwards, you’ll be able to see everything that will ever fall into the black hole behind you.”
Pretty amazing what our world has, huh?
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
These are the words of Chicken Little, a character in a well-known children’s book who thinks the sky is falling after an acorn falls from a tree and hits Chicken Little on the head. In some versions of the story, Chicken Little convinces her animal friends to go with her to tell the king that the sky is falling only to be sent back home with assurances the sky wasn’t going to fall.
Yet if the story of Chicken Little were set in today’s times, it would be a different story altogether. Just substitute scientists for Chicken Little, a satellite for the acorn, and voila! You get this article in the New York Times.
Scientists and NASA experts are growing increasingly concerned over the amount of space junk in Earth’s lower atmosphere. This comes as no surprise, as within the past two years alone two satellites have crashed into Earth. However, scientists agree that although the likelihood of collisions of Earth are small, the likelihood of collisions with other space technology such as the International Space Station and important satellites is increasing.
Researchers are working on creating technology that would clear up orbital space around Earth. Technology in developmental stages range from balloons and lasers that would push space junk out of orbit (to then burn up harmlessly in Earth’s lower atmosphere) to an $11 million dollar claw that would grab onto space junk before dragging both itself and the junk to burn in lower orbits.
Yet the question is, just how complicated is it to solve the space-junk issue?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as writing THE END. There are many debates as to which method is the most effective at removing space junk, as well as extensive international politics. Space objects are owned by the nations that put them into orbit, and only those nations can bring them down. International agreements and policies are currently developing very slow as countries debate and often get distracted by other pressing international issues.
Do you think that space pollution and the removal of space junk is an issue that the international community should be focusing on more? Who should be responsible for its removal? What’s your favorite new technology to deal with space cleanup?