Black Holes The Ultimate

Incredible though it seems, if a star is massive enough it will continue to collapse on itself. Forever.

Recall from Chapter 18, "Stellar Careers," that a white dwarf evolves from a low-mass parent star (a star less than 5 to 10 solar masses) and that the resulting white dwarf can be no more massive than 1.4 solar masses. If it has a higher mass, gravity will overwhelm the tightly packed degenerate electron pressure, and the core will continue to collapse. When a star's mass is greater than 1.4 solar masses, its core collapse continues, and it will blow off its outer layers as a supernova. If the mass of the core is less than 3 solar masses, the remnant will be a neutron star. However, the "specs" for a neutron star also have an upper mass limit. It is believed that a neutron star can be no more massive than about three times the mass of the sun. Beyond this point, even its apparently uncrushable core of neutrons will yield to gravity's pull.

So what? Do we just get an even smaller and denser neutron star?

Not exactly. We get an object from which there is literally no escape.

When an extremely massive star is ripped apart in a supernova explosion, it may produce a supernova remnant so massive that the subsequent core collapse cannot be stopped. When this happens, nothing escapes the attractive forces near the core— not even electromagnetic radiation, including visible light.

This fallen star, the end-result of the collapse of an extremely massive stellar core is an object from which no light can escape. It is called a black hole.

A stellar mass black hole is the end-result of the core collapse of a high mass star. It is an object from which no light can escape. Although space behaves strangely very close to a black hole, at astronomical distances the black hole's only effect is gravitational.

Star Words

A stellar mass black hole is the end-result of the core collapse of a high mass star. It is an object from which no light can escape. Although space behaves strangely very close to a black hole, at astronomical distances the black hole's only effect is gravitational.

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