Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Some Black Holes May Not Be Black, But Rather 'Naked Singularities'

Date:
September 24, 2007
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
Researchers think there is a way to determine whether some black holes are not actually black. Astronomers cannot say for sure whether all black holes are actually black, having never fully penetrated the obscuring outward matter surrounding such objects, but now they propose a way to find out.

This artist's concept depicts a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. The blue color here represents radiation pouring out from material very close to the black hole. The grayish structure surrounding the black hole, called a torus, is made up of gas and dust.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Researchers from Duke University and the University of Cambridge think there is a way to determine whether some black holes are not actually black.

Finding such an unmasked form of what physicists term a singularity "would shock the foundation of general relativity," said Arlie Petters, a Duke professor of mathematics and physics who worked with Marcus Werner, Cambridge graduate student in astrophysics, on a report posted online Monday, Sept. 24, for the research journal Physical Review D.

"It would show that nature has surprises even weirder than black holes," Petters added.

Albert Einstein originally theorized that stars bigger than the sun can collapse and compress into singularities, entities so confining and massively dense that the laws of physics break down inside them.

Astronomers have since found indirect evidence for these entities, which are popularly known as black holes because of the "cosmic censorship conjecture." This conjecture is that "realistic" singularities -- meaning those that can be formed in nature -- must always hide within a barrier known as an "event horizon" from which light can never escape. That makes them appear perpetually black to the rest of the universe.

But cosmic censorship is "an open conjecture that is very difficult to prove, and very difficult to disprove," said Petters.

And, despite the general support for the universality of black holes, Kip Thorne and John Preskill, two experts in the cosmology of relativity at the California Institute of Technology, have suggested for more than a decade that naked singularities could exist in certain instances. Now Petters and Werner have devised a way to test for their presence.

Astronomers cannot say for sure whether all black holes are actually black, having never fully penetrated the obscuring outward matter surrounding such objects, Petters said. As their main evidence, scientists can only point to effects that the massive gravitational pull of certain unseen entities exert on surrounding matter. Those effects include emissions of highly energetic radiation, or the extreme orbits of nearby stars.

Petters is an expert in "gravitational lensing," another effect of relativity that permits massive sources of gravity to split light from background astronomical features into multiple images.

In earlier reports in the November, 2005 and February, 2006 issues of Physical Review D, he and Charles Keeton of Rutgers University suggested a way to use gravitational lensing to show whether cosmic censorship can ever be violated.

However, that evaluation was limited to non-spinning singularities that are considered only theoretically possible. The suspected singularities astronomers have found in space so far all appear to be rapidly spinning, sometimes at more than 1,000 times a second.

So Petters and Werner teamed up to see if they could generalize such an application of gravitational lensing to all realistic spinning singularities. Their surprising result was yes, Petters said.

In work supported by the National Science Foundation in the United States and the Science and Technology Facilities Council in the United Kingdom, the pair employed a finding that a black hole could be shed of its event horizon and become a naked singularity if its angular momentum -- an effect of its spin -- is greater than its mass.

That would translate into a spin of a few thousand rotations a second in the case of a black hole weighing about 10 times more than our Sun, said Werner.

In the event that the required conditions were met, Petters' and Werner's calculations show that a naked singularity's massive gravitation would split the light of background stars or galaxies in telltale ways that are potentially detectable by astronomers using existing or soon-to-be instruments.

Those possible ways are outlined by six different equations in their study that connect a singularity's spin to the separations, angular alignments and brightness of the two split images.

"If you ask me whether I believe that naked singularities exist, I will tell you that I'm sitting on the fence," said Petters. "In a sense, I hope they are not there. I would prefer to have covered-up black holes. But I'm still open-minded enough to entertain the 'otherwise' possibility."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "Some Black Holes May Not Be Black, But Rather 'Naked Singularities'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070924151118.htm>.
Duke University. (2007, September 24). Some Black Holes May Not Be Black, But Rather 'Naked Singularities'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070924151118.htm
Duke University. "Some Black Holes May Not Be Black, But Rather 'Naked Singularities'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070924151118.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) A total lunar eclipse, the first since December 2011, took place early Tuesday morning with the Americas getting the best glimpse. Duration: 1:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early Tuesday morning - a total eclipse of the moon. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) New research says the urea from urine could be recycled for fuel. Urea is filtered out of wastewater when making drinking water. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins