“Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.” -Sam Neill, Event Horizon

Are event horizons real? With data taken from around a dozen observatories earlier this year, simultaneously, the Event Horizon Telescope is poised to put together the first-ever direct image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy Sagittarius A*. If event horizons are real, this data should be able to create the first-ever image of it, proving that nothing escapes from inside a black hole once you’ve been swallowed.

Five different simulations in general relativity, using a magnetohydrodynamic model of the black hole’s accretion disk, and how the radio signal will look as a result. Note the clear signature of the event horizon in all the expected results. Image credit: GRMHD simulations of visibility amplitude variability for Event Horizon Telescope images of Sgr A*, L. Medeiros et al., arXiv:1601.06799.

But why wait? Through a very clever technique, a team of astronomers used data from the Pan-STARRS telescope to test the alternative: that there’d be a hard surface exterior to where the event horizon is supposed to be. If that were the case, stars that collided with these hard surfaces would create a transient signal in the visible and infrared, which is exactly what Pan-STARRS is sensitive to.

If a hard surface, rather than an event horizon, exists around a supermassive object, a collision should result in a luminous burst that telescopes like Pan-STARRS should easily perceive. Image credit: Mark A. Garlick.

The lack of such signals, even though a significant number would be expected, shows that the alternative to event horizons cannot stand. Event horizons are real, and now we have indirect proof!

Comments

  1. #1 John
    Baltimore
    May 31, 2017

    “Nothing Escapes From A Black Hole, And Now Astronomers Have Proof”

    Not even information?

  2. #2 Brian
    May 31, 2017

    February 10, 2016 Will the World’s Largest Supercollider Spawn a Black Hole?

    Don Lincoln is a senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermilab, the United States’ biggest Large Hadron Collider research institution. He also writes about science for the public, including his recent “The Large Hadron Collider: The Extraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Things That Will Blow Your Mind” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014).

    http://www.livescience.com/53669-can-particle-accelerators-spawn-black-holes-and-global-extinction.html

  3. #3 Paul Dekous
    May 31, 2017

    “Yet no signature at all was seen.”

    Might also be proof that Black Holes don’t exist.

  4. #4 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    May 31, 2017

    @Paul Dekous #3: Sadly, you’ve got it exactly backwards. If black holes “don’t exist” (i.e., if there is some other simple compact object, like a super duper neutron star, which can provide the necessary gravitating mass in a small space), then there should/would be evidence for a surface of emission from such a compact object.

    The lack of a surface, coupled with the obvious existing of the gravitating mass, is evidence _for_ black holes as described by general relativity, not the other way around.

  5. #5 Michael Mooney
    May 31, 2017

    Ethan, May 20: “One of the most puzzling things about Black Holes is that if you wait around long enough, they’ll evaporate completely.”

    Ethan, May 31: “Nothing Escapes From A Black Hole, And Now Astronomers Have Proof”

    How quickly science according to Ethan changes here at SWAB!

  6. #6 Narad
    May 31, 2017

    How quickly science according to Ethan changes here at SWAB!

    I see that you still haven’t invested any effort in trying to figure out Hawking radiation.

  7. #7 John
    Baltimore
    May 31, 2017

    Michael Mooney,

    Are you familiar with the phenomenon of quantum tunneling?

  8. #8 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    May 31, 2017

    Or reading past the headline?

  9. #9 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    May 31, 2017

    I’ve never come across the idea that black holes might have a solid surface before. How would that even work?

  10. #10 Michael Mooney
    May 31, 2017

    John,
    I’m familiar with natural tunneling as in stars and other examples as covered in Wikipedia.

    Here is a quote from AZO Quantum on it:
    ” If the barrier is thin enough, the amplitude may be non-zero on the other side, so there is a finite probability that some of the particles will tunnel through the barrier.”

    Those examples have no relevance whatsoever to the question at hand: “Can mass escape from within a black hole?” Gravity is a natural law (not just a theory) and it doesn’t allow *anything* to escape a bh once it’s sucked in.

  11. #11 eric
    May 31, 2017

    If the barrier is thin enough, the amplitude may be non-zero on the other side, so there is a finite probability that some of the particles will tunnel through the barrier.”

    Those examples have no relevance whatsoever to the question at hand

    Just quit digging, please. Every time you quote something lately, you get it badly wrong. “Barrier” used in this way means the presence of forces or interactions that require and input of energy to overcome. It’s called a “barrier’ because physicists and chemists often make graphs where they plot energy required on the y axis and a reaction coordinate on the x, and on such a graph the energy required looks like a big hump between where you are and where you want to get to. This is something anyone with even a freshman’s understanding of chemistry 101 or physics 101 should understand.

  12. #12 John
    Baltimore
    May 31, 2017

    Michael Mooney,

    Hang in there with me for a bit please.

    Are you comfortable with the notion of matter/energy equivalence?

  13. #13 Michael Mooney
    May 31, 2017

    John.
    It makes absolutely no difference what I’m comfortable with.
    “E=MC squared” worked out well for the A-bomb, for sure. Is there a point to your question?

  14. #14 John
    Baltimore
    May 31, 2017

    Michael Mooney,

    Even though Ethan agreed with me, his reply to my “not obvious” comment left me unsatisfied. While browsing through other explanations of Hawking radiation, I read about quantum tunneling as one description of this unintuitive process.

    Well, if you accept matter/energy equivalence, and if you accept that a boson such as a photon has some probability of tunneling through a “barrier”, then if a particle–antiparticle pair formed from the vacuum, as they are supposed to do, one could tunnel outside the event horizon, while the other would remain within. As the emergent photon has some energy, and keeping the matter/energy equivalence in mind, this would provide a process by which a BH could loose mass, albeit slowly.

    I thought you might find this model less unappealing than others.

  15. #15 Michael Kelsey
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
    May 31, 2017

    @Naked Bunny #9: It’s not black holes, it some of the other non-black-hole alternatives that have been tossed about either by real theorists, or by tossers who are terrified of advanced mathematics.

    As I said to M. Dekous, some alternative theory of gravity or particle physics could have a “super duper neutron star”, that was just an ordinary compact object (i.e., a ball of stuff). It could be sufficiently dense that the surface gravity was a-a-a-a-lmost but not quite that of a comparable ordinary black hole, but it would have a true physical surface. In that case, stuff falling onto it would produce a characteristic spectrum, and there would be blackbody infrared coming from the object’s bulk.

    The point of the PanSTARRS study Ethan wrote about is that we know how big SMBH are (because of the mass/circumference relation), and we know the density of stars in galactic cores. Put those two together and you can calculate (just from simple geometry) the expected rate of star-SMBH collisions, which is at least 10 for the period of the PanSTARRS study. PanSTARRS didn’t see _any_ of the indicators of stars splatting onto surfaces, which allows them to rule out that hypothesis (P(x<=0 for mu=10) = 4.5e-5).

  16. #16 Paul Dekous
    June 1, 2017

    @Michael Kelsey #4:

    “some other simple compact object … which can provide the necessary gravitating mass in a small space”

    Who says there needs to be such an object?

    If a Galaxy is like a school of fish that swims around in loops, stirring up SpaceTime, than at the center of that whirlpool the friction and compression is the most intense, the distance between the top side going in the opposite direction of the bottom side is the smallest.

    So the force does not need to come from the center but it is an accumulation from all the surrounding motion.

    SpaceTime that being compressed from the outside, and there is no massive object pulling from the inside, calm in the eye of the storm.

    If a planet would fly towards such an area it could be flung around and deflect, perhaps spiral upwards away, like how leafs spin around in a whirlwind.

  17. #17 Sinisa Lazarek
    June 1, 2017

    @ Paul

    “If a Galaxy is like a school of fish…. ”

    reality check… galaxies are not like schools of fish and everything else you’re writing is nonsense..

  18. #18 Paul Dekous
    June 1, 2017

    @Sinisa Lazarek #17,

    Like the analogy or not but Atoms do not just move passively through space, so a fish comes with all its muscle contractions as an closer to an Atom than lets say a passive rock or ball.

    Of course it is a ‘point particle’ but with some extra ordinary properties when we zoom in. Remember the amount of ‘sea-quark’ that increases the more energetic Protons become, like a fish producing more vortices the faster it swims.

    Anyway the point is that they have an internal driving force and it pull its energy out of …

  19. #19 Paul Dekous
    June 1, 2017

    @Sinisa Lazarek #17,

    BTW If you ever want to merge GR with QM you need to look deeper at what is going on, and wonder why an Proton is a ‘spastic’ thing.

  20. #20 Sinisa Lazarek
    June 1, 2017

    “…wonder why an Proton is a ‘spastic’ thing.”

    Must be ’cause of all the fish food…

  21. #21 CFT
    June 1, 2017

    @Sinisa Lazarek,
    “@ Paul

    “If a Galaxy is like a school of fish…. ”

    reality check… galaxies are not like schools of fish and everything else you’re writing is nonsense..”
    .
    Pot, meet kettle.
    And gravity isn’t a ridiculous two dimensional rubber sheet either, but you subscribe to that analogy every time you blather about space time and nod your head along with Ethan. As to the difficult math ‘tossers’ (Michael’s words) shy away from, explain how a non linear mathematical model that can not accommodate more than one mass is descriptive of how gravity works? How many masses do you actually think you can put in the same given space time? Do you know of a mathematically valid solution to more than one mass being represented in the same given space time? If you did, you would be the first.

  22. #22 Michael Mooney
    June 1, 2017

    @John, #14: “… if you accept that a boson such as a photon has some probability of tunneling through a “barrier”…”

    As I understand it, photon tunneling happens in stars, but a star is not a black hole… from which no mass or light escapes.

    “…then if a particle–antiparticle pair formed from the vacuum, as they are supposed to do, one could tunnel outside the event horizon, while the other would remain within.”

    “…formed from the vacuum” is nonsense. Things do not magically “form” out of nothing (a vacuum) except in the minds of quantum theorists. Whatever happens outside the event horizon, nothing escapes from within.

    Bs is still bs even if it’s dressed up in fancy theoretical clothes and magical manifestations.

  23. #23 Paul Dekous
    June 1, 2017

    @CFT #21,

    Exactly.

  24. #24 That'sNotHowAnyOfThisWorks
    Truth Or Consequences, AZ
    June 1, 2017

    Shout out to MM, CFT for today’s entertainment. I look forward to the inevitable frivolity that tomorrow will bring. Keep it coming…

  25. #25 John Seal
    United States
    June 1, 2017

    Michael Mooney,

    “… photon tunneling happens in stars …”
    Quantum tunneling does occur in stars, but not only in stars. The scanning electron microscope is a non-astrophysical example of quantum tunneling, as is programming the floating gates of FLASH memory.

    “’…formed from the vacuum’ is nonsense.”
    You are probably familiar with (high energy [Mev]) photon to electron and positron pair production. In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle allows energy to decay (very briefly) into particles and antiparticles which then annihilate back to energy without violating conservation laws.

    “Whatever happens outside the event horizon, nothing escapes from within.”
    Quantum tunneling is a general feature in quantum mechanics, where a particle – a photon in my example – tunnels through a barrier (potential barrier) that classical mechanics says it could not overcome. The barrier in my example would be the energy needed to transit the event horizon.

    “Bs is still bs even if it’s dressed up in fancy theoretical clothes and magical manifestations.”
    True, but the items under discussion – quantum tunneling and pair production – are well documented physical phenomena.

  26. #26 Narad
    June 1, 2017

    Whatever happens outside the event horizon, nothing escapes from within.

    Thank goodness that Hawking radiation doesn’t come from within the event horizon.

    Your proufoundly lazy, thought-free perseveration is really getting tedious.

  27. #27 Narad
    June 1, 2017

    ^ Grumble grumble blockquote fail grumble.

  28. #28 Paul Dekous
    June 1, 2017

    @That’s Not How Any Of This Works … so how does a Proton bend or contract SpaceTime?

    BTW people used to think that everything revolved around the Earth now it’s around a BH … might be as well an idéfix.

  29. #29 Narad
    June 2, 2017

    so how does a Proton bend or contract SpaceTime f*cking magnets, how do they work?

    FTFY. Look, if you’re going to reject the statement that G_{\mu\nu}=8\pi T_{\mu\nu}, you’re going to have to come up with something better, and it certainly isn’t the Newtonian version.

    Oh, and in that picture, how do masses attract? Be specific.

  30. #30 That'sNotHowAnyOfThisWorks
    Phucket, Thailand
    June 2, 2017

    Condensed into a nutshell: “Mass tells space how to curve; space tells mass how to move.”

  31. #31 Paul Dekous
    June 2, 2017

    @Narad #29,

    I have no problem with GR and there won’t be anything better to describe what effects gravity has at a fundamental level. Just like how Newton’s law work perfect at a certain level.

    My question of ‘how’ is to look deeper, a bit like that Verlinde character who came with a new theory of gravity. Saying gravity is not a fundamental force of nature, but an emergent phenomenon …

    Similarly but slightly different I was using the analogy of a fish for a Proton, a spastic, energetic entity in a medium.

    Which ‘Sinasa’ and ‘That’sNotHowAnyOfThisWorks’ rediculed. Far enough, I have no real problem with that, but as CFT pointed out what is a good analogy of what’s going on, sure a rubber sheet will do for GR curving SpaceTime but it won’t do for the dynamics within a Proton etc.

    “you’re going to have to come up with something better”

    I just might … because I allow myself to look at the problem in multiple ways.

  32. #32 That'sNotHowAnyOfThisWorks
    Superior Bottom, WV
    June 2, 2017

    “Which ‘Sinasa’ and ‘That’sNotHowAnyOfThisWorks’ rediculed.”

    For clarity, you were not among those I mentioned in that posting.

  33. #33 Sinisa Lazarek
    June 2, 2017

    I didn’t ridicule you.. I pointed that your post #16 is blatantly wrong, with analogy, and all that comes after it is nonsense.. like a sentence “SpaceTime that being compressed from the outside”. And mind you.. I have no problem with you writing that spacetime compresses, IF you can prove or show it. Which you can’t. That’s the whole point!. You are not putting a new theory, you are putting a fantasy of what you would LIKE to happen. That’s not physics or science.. it’s your own fiction which you want to portray as science, and now you’re upset for it being called b.s.

    And please.. don’t compare yourself with Verlinde…

  34. #34 eric
    June 2, 2017

    John Seal:

    In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle allows energy to decay (very briefly) into particles and antiparticles which then annihilate back to energy without violating conservation laws.

    John, I think you may be mixing up pair production and vacuum fluctuations. Pair production is when a photon converts into a positron and election (there are a few other similar interactions too, but that’s the main one people typically refer to). Vacuum fluctuations are when a pair of particles spontaneously appears in “empty” space: this process doesn’t require a pre-existing photon. Vacuum fluctuations are, AIUI, not only allowed by the H.U.P., they are required by it. Because if there were no fluctuations, delta p = 0.

  35. #35 Narad
    June 2, 2017

    My question of ‘how’ is to look deeper

    Please rephrase this in English.

  36. #36 Paul Dekous
    June 2, 2017

    @Sinisa Lazarek #33,

    “You are not putting a new theory, you are putting a fantasy … “

    True.

    “That’s not physics or science.”

    Fantasy is often the way to come up with a new theory, it is the first step and definitely a part of science. You imagine … a spark … and than you investigate … you tell someone else … and they speculate … investigate … plum pudding anyone?

    BTW you do understand that ‘if’ is a condition or supposition?

  37. #37 Paul Dekous
    June 2, 2017

    @Narad #35,

    I can’t think of a way to rephrase that. What I can do is give an example.

    How does a car work? You answer is give gas and steer. I would like to compare this to you giving the Einstein field equation.

    Now I ask you ‘to look deeper’ and so you explain how combustion provides the force … like a fish that burns calories.

    So sure you have explained ‘how’, but only a part of it.

  38. #38 Paul Dekous
    June 3, 2017

    @That’sNotHowAnyOfThisWorks #30,

    “For clarity, you were not among those I mentioned in that posting.”

    True, you were targeting ‘CFT’ who was sort of defended my argument … perhaps you were aiming at the latter part of comment … ok than.

  39. #39 Sinisa Lazarek
    June 3, 2017

    @ Paul

    “Fantasy is often the way to come up with a new theory, ”

    really? Can you give some examples?

    “BTW you do understand that ‘if’ is a condition or supposition?”

    think I do… IF you knew some physics at least.. you wouldn’t be writing such b.s. in the first place.

  40. #40 Paul Dekous
    June 3, 2017

    @Sinisa Lazarek #39:

    The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.” Albert Einstein

    I already gave you an example with the pudding, IF it’s not good enough look up ‘Maxwell’s molecular vortex model’.

  41. #41 John Seal
    United States
    June 3, 2017

    Eric,

    Yes, a correction is in order. Thank you.
    “– quantum tunneling and pair production –”
    should read
    “– quantum tunneling and vacuum fluctuations –”

    As both vacuum fluctuations and pair production involve the decomposition of energy into particles (vacuum fluctuation’s being “virtual” and those of pair production’s being “real”) I thought to introduce vacuum fluctuations with pair production, the latter being more generally accepted.

    But the closing sentence of my post #25 definitely needed pair production corrected with vacuum fluctuations as the origin of the photons of Hawking radiation.

  42. #42 Sinisa Lazarek
    June 3, 2017

    @ paul

    you do realize that both Maxwell’s and Einsteins work is based purely in math and physics… i take that back.. you probably don’t. .. troll away ignoramus

  43. #43 Paul Dekous
    June 3, 2017

    @Sinisa Lazarek #42,

    Stop nagging. All I said is that it often takes imagination to come with a new theory and that you than start to investigate, and come up with the math.

  44. #44 Michael Mooney
    June 3, 2017

    John Seal (#25),
    Quantum tunneling in stars and in the other examples you cited does not apply to black holes. The title of this post is correct, even though Ethan cites bh evaporation alternatively with the proof that NOTHING ESCAPES.

    What happens outside the event horizon doesn’t make a bh lose mass from within it.

  45. #45 John
    Baltimore
    June 3, 2017

    Michael Mooney,

    “Quantum tunneling in stars and in the other examples you cited does not apply to black holes.”
    Why do you claim that the quantum tunneling in stars and the other examples applies on one side of the event horizon and not the other?

    “What happens outside the event horizon doesn’t make a bh lose mass from within it.”
    The quantum tunneling referred to originates from inside the event horizon not from outside. What you’re referring to is a different model for Hawking radiation.

  46. #46 enic
    June 3, 2017

    Paul D.:

    All I said is that it often takes imagination to come with a new theory

    Its fine to use imagination to come up with a new hypothesis. But to get to theory you need to work up a body of confirmed evidence via experimentation.

    Moreover, what the folks like CFT and MM are doing here is not coming up with a new hypothtesis. In fact they manifestly avoid making any positive claims that might be (a) different from mainstream predictions, and (b) testable. Its like they’re practically allergic to doing so. What they are doing is claiming well-tested theories like GR are wrong. Imagination plays little or no role in making such a refutation claim; for that, you need evidence that your criticism holds water, and they have none.

  47. #47 Narad
    June 3, 2017

    Oh, dear, I missed this:

    I’m familiar with natural tunneling as in stars and other examples as covered in Wikipedia.

    Well, we’re off to a solid grounding here. Hence,

    Quantum tunneling in stars and in the other examples you cited does not apply to black holes.

    I don’t think it’s relevant to Hawking radiation, if that is the source of your outburst here, but either way, stamping your feet based on your “understanding” of a W—dia page doesn’t cut the mustard.

  48. #48 Michael Mooney
    June 4, 2017

    Blah, blah, blah… tunneling.
    Meanwhile Ethan nailed it in this post (before he changed back to evaporating black holes, again):

    “Nothing Escapes From A Black Hole, And Now Astronomers Have Proof”

    But now let’s ignore the proof… again.

  49. #49 Narad
    June 4, 2017

    But now let’s ignore the proof

    The title of a post?

  50. #50 eric
    June 4, 2017

    [MM] But now let’s ignore the proof

    [Narad] The title of a post?

    Nuance, the final frontier…

  51. #51 John
    Baltimore
    June 5, 2017

    Michael Mooney,

    I see you are unwilling to discuss this model for Hawking radiation. Ah well, such is life.

  52. #52 Michael Mooney
    June 6, 2017

    John,
    This may be too rational/ reasonable for folks who believe in imaginary “virtual particles” that are somehow (magically) immune to the extreme (nothing escapes) gravity of a black hole, but all the evidence shows that indeed nothing escapes. (It’s not just Ethan’s post title.
    So this fantasy radiation that is supposed to make them evaporate is nothing but nonsense, falsified by empirical observation.

  53. #53 John
    Baltimore
    June 7, 2017

    Michael Mooney,

    I recognize that you are unwilling to discuss this model for Hawking radiation.

  54. #54 Michael Mooney
    June 8, 2017

    John (#45): “The quantum tunneling referred to originates from inside the event horizon not from outside.”

    Ethan: “Nothing escapes from a black hole.”

    You can’t have it both ways. Neither can Ethan, but he “tries.” The evidence supports the latter.

  55. #55 John
    Baltimore
    June 8, 2017

    To what evidence are you referring? You have acknowledged quantum tunneling as a physical phenomenon. You’ll need to explain why you’ve decided it happens on one side of an event horizon and not the other. Different physics perhaps?

  56. #56 eric
    June 8, 2017

    John @55: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if quantum mechanics combined with gravity resulted in ‘interior’ wave functions having some interesting shape effects right around the event horizon. However that would be irrelevant and would not support MM, because AFAIK hawking radiation is predicted from QM calculations done on the space or stuff outside of the event horizon.

  57. #57 John
    Baltimore
    June 11, 2017

    eric,

    There is a quantum tunneling model where vacuum fluctuations create particle–antiparticle pairs, and one will tunnel outside the event horizon.

    http://cscanada.net/index.php/ans/article/view/j.ans.1715787020120502.1817

    I doubt Michael Mooney would be satisfied with any Hawking radiation model.

  58. #58 Sinisa Lazarek
    June 12, 2017

    @ eric, john …

    one thing (idea) I recently came across (probably not that new to the people in the field of BH study), is that as you approach the singularity.. or regions with ever increasing energies, the physics we know sort of revert to primordial regimes that we don’t know. i.e. the mass of elementary particles comes from Higgs field… which in turn comes from spontenous symmetry breaking. What if that broken symmetry becomes reinstated at some very high energy?

    Thus things we know like electron i.e. evolve… or revert might be a better word… to something entirely new/old. Of course, not just electrons.. but everything. Thus it might be that matter and energy as we know them from standard model get reverted to some unified field whose properties and dynamics we know nothing about. All the symmetries get to what they were before the BB.

  59. #59 John
    Baltimore
    June 12, 2017

    Sinisa,

    “… as you approach the singularity.. or regions with ever increasing energies, the physics we know sort of revert to primordial regimes that we don’t know.”

    That seems plausible, and would account for the multiple explanatory models.

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