• Question: If we created a super squashing machine with a high preassure from something like gold or heavier to make someting so small that it becomes a black hole? I know the black hole could form, but we can we make the machine to do that? Could Neutron Stars do it?

    Asked by Herp Derp to Miranda, James on 24 Jun 2015.
    • Photo: James Gilbert

      James Gilbert answered on 24 Jun 2015:

      Heh, well a ‘machine’ in terms of something mechanical that we could build wouldn’t work, because what on Earth could you make it from?? But you probably get that bit..

      Neutron stars are close to being black holes, in that they are super dense.. if it wasn’t for something called neutron degeneracy pushing outwards against gravity, then they would collapse into a single point, and hence become a black hole as we know it.

      Two neutron stars can spiral towards each other due to gravity and merge, which is another black hole recipe.

      But we just have to look up to see all this stuff. I doubt we could bring it about ourselves!

      Oh and also people have theorised about ‘quantum black holes’ which occur on a subatomic scale. This is why people got all wound up about the Higgs boson experiment at CERN a few years ago, thinking it might create a black hole that would destroy us. But quantum black holes are different, and I don’t think the theory has even been proven.

    • Photo: Miranda Jackson

      Miranda Jackson answered on 24 Jun 2015:

      The only way to get particles so close together that they are dense enough to be a black hole is to smash them together at really high energies. Any kind of pressure pump as you describe would break before it could form matter that dense.

      A black hole forms when the core of a massive star (more massive than 12 suns) collapses. This happens when it runs out of fuel to burn, and there is nothing to support the star from contracting under its own gravity. Neutron stars form from stars that are just a bit less massive (8-12 suns), and their cores stop collapsing because they are supported by what is known as neutron degeneracy, which is a quantum mechanical concept that tells us that the same particles cannot be too close together. Higher mass stars get past this limitation because the gravity is strong enough to crush the neutrons into their constituent quarks and form an object that is even more dense.

      All it means when we say something is a black hole is that the object is so dense that there is a radius at which all light and matter cannot escape the gravity. If you are a long distance away, you will feel the same force of gravity from the object depending only on its mass, whether it is a black hole, a neutron star, or just a regular star like the sun. If a planet is in orbit around any of those objects, given that they have the same mass, the orbit will be exactly the same, if it is at the same distance from them. It’s only when you get really close to a black hole that strange things happen like you won’t be able to escape the gravity, but, of course, if it is a regular star, you will encounter the surface of the star long before you get that close to the centre of it.

      James is correct that if neutron stars merge, the resulting object would be dense enough to be a black hole.