سیاه چاله ها بخش دومسرفصل: تاریخچه مختصر زمان / سرفصل 11
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متن انگلیسی سرفصل
The event horizon, the boundary of the region of space-time from which it is not possible to escape, acts rather like a one-way membrane around the black hole: objects, such as unwary astronauts, can fall through the event horizon into the black hole, but nothing can ever get out of the black hole through the event horizon. (Remember that the event horizon is the path in space-time of light that is trying to escape from the black hole, and nothing can travel faster than light.) One could well say of the event horizon what the poet Dante said of the entrance to Hell: ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here.’ Anything or anyone who falls through the event horizon will soon reach the region of infinite density and the end of time.
General relativity predicts that heavy objects that are moving will cause the emission of gravitational waves, ripples in the curvature of space that travel at the speed of light. These are similar to light waves, which are ripples of the electromagnetic field, but they are much harder to detect. They can be observed by the very slight change in separation they produce between neighboring freely moving objects. A number of detectors are being built in the US, Europe, and Japan that will measure displacements of one part in a thousand million million million (1 with twenty-one zeros after it), or less than the nucleus of an atom over a distance of ten miles.
Like light, gravitational waves carry energy away from the objects that emit them. One would therefore expect a system of massive objects to settle down eventually to a stationary state, because the energy in any movement would be carried away by the emission of gravitational waves. (It is rather like dropping a cork into water: at first it bobs up and down a great deal, but as the ripples carry away its energy, it eventually settles down to a stationary state.) For example, the movement of the earth in its orbit round the sun produces gravitational waves. The effect of the energy loss will be to change the orbit of the earth so that gradually it gets nearer and nearer to the sun, eventually collides with it, and settles down to a stationary state. The rate of energy loss in the case of the earth and the sun is very low – about enough to run a small electric heater. This means it will take about a thousand million million million million years for the earth to run into the sun, so there’s no immediate cause for worry! The change in the orbit of the earth is too slow to be observed, but this same effect has been observed over the past few years occurring in the system called PSR 1913 + 16 (PSR stands for ‘pulsar,’ a special type of neutron star that emits regular pulses of radio waves). This system contains two neutron stars orbiting each other, and the energy they are losing by the emission of gravitational waves is causing them to spiral in toward each other. This confirmation of general relativity won J. H. Taylor and R. A. Hulse the Nobel prize in 1993. It will take about three hundred million years for them to collide. Just before they do, they will be orbiting so fast that they will emit enough gravitational waves for detectors like LIGO to pick up.
During the gravitational collapse of a star to form a black hole, the movements would be much more rapid, so the rate at which energy is carried away would be much higher. It would therefore not be too long before it settled down to a stationary state. What would this final stage look like? One might suppose that it would depend on all the complex features of the star from which it had formed – not only its mass and rate of rotation, but also the different densities of various parts of the star, and the complicated movements of the gases within the star. And if black holes were as varied as the objects that collapsed to form them, it might be very difficult to make any predictions about black holes in general.
In 1967, however, the study of black holes was revolutionized by Werner Israel, a Canadian scientist (who was born in Berlin, brought up in South Africa, and took his doctoral degree in Ireland). Israel showed that, according to general relativity, non-rotating black holes must be very simple; they were perfectly spherical, their size depended only on their mass, and any two such black holes with the same mass were identical. They could, in fact, be described by a particular solution of Einstein’s equations that had been known since 1917, found by Karl Schwarzschild shortly after the discovery of general relativity. At first many people, including Israel himself, argued that since black holes had to be perfectly spherical, a black hole could only form from the collapse of a perfectly spherical object. Any real star – which would never be perfectly spherical – could therefore only collapse to form a naked singularity.
There was, however, a different interpretation of Israel’s result, which was advocated by Roger Penrose and John Wheeler in particular. They argued that the rapid movements involved in a star’s collapse would mean that the gravitational waves it gave off would make it ever more spherical, and by the time it had settled down to a stationary state, it would be precisely spherical. According to this view, any non-rotating star, however complicated its shape and internal structure, would end up after gravitational collapse as a perfectly spherical black hole, whose size would depend only on its mass. Further calculations supported this view, and it soon came to be adopted generally.
Israel’s result dealt with the case of black holes formed from non-rotating bodies only. In 1963, Roy Kerr, a New Zealander, found a set of solutions of the equations of general relativity that described rotating black holes. These ‘Kerr’ black holes rotate at a constant rate, their size and shape depending only on their mass and rate of rotation. If the rotation is zero, the black hole is perfectly round and the solution is identical to the Schwarzschild solution. If the rotation is non-zero, the black hole bulges outward near its equator (just as the earth or the sun bulge due to their rotation), and the faster it rotates, the more it bulges. So, to extend Israel’s result to include rotating bodies, it was conjectured that any rotating body that collapsed to form a black hole would eventually settle down to a stationary state described by the Kerr solution.
In 1970 a colleague and fellow research student of mine at Cambridge, Brandon Carter, took the first step toward proving this conjecture. He showed that, provided a stationary rotating black hole had an axis of symmetry, like a spinning top, its size and shape would depend only on its mass and rate of rotation. Then, in 1971, I proved that any stationary rotating black hole would indeed have such an axis of symmetry. Finally, in 1973, David Robinson at Kings College, London, used Carter’s and my results to show that the conjecture had been correct: such a black hole had indeed to be the Kerr solution. So after gravitational collapse a black hole must settle down into a state in which it could be rotating, but not pulsating. Moreover, its size and shape would depend only on its mass and rate of rotation, and not on the nature of the body that had collapsed to form it. This result became known by the maxim: ‘A black hole has no hair.’ The ‘no hair’ theorem is of great practical importance, because it so greatly restricts the possible types of black holes. One can therefore make detailed models of objects that might contain black holes and compare the predictions of the models with observations. It also means that a very large amount of information about the body that has collapsed must be lost when a black hole is formed, because afterward all we can possibly measure about the body is its mass and rate of rotation. The significance of this will be seen in the next chapter.
Black holes are one of only a fairly small number of cases in the history of science in which a theory was developed in great detail as a mathematical model before there was any evidence from observations that it was correct. Indeed, this used to be the main argument of opponents of black holes: how could one believe in objects for which the only evidence was calculations based on the dubious theory of general relativity? In 1963, however, Maarten Schmidt, an astronomer at the Palomar Observatory in California, measured the red shift of a faint starlike object in the direction of the source of radio waves called 3C273 (that is, source number 273 in the third Cambridge catalogue of radio sources). He found it was too large to be caused by a gravitational field: if it had been a gravitational red shift, the object would have to be so massive and so near to us that it would disturb the orbits of planets in the Solar System. This suggested that the red shift was instead caused by the expansion of the universe, which, in turn, meant that the object was a very long distance away. And to be visible at such a great distance, the object must be very bright, must, in other words, be emitting a huge amount of energy. The only mechanism that people could think of that would produce such large quantities of energy seemed to be the gravitational collapse not just of a star but of a whole central region of a galaxy. A number of other similar ‘quasistellar objects,’ or quasars, have been discovered, all with large red shifts. But they are all too far away and therefore too difficult to observe to provide conclusive evidence of black holes.
Further encouragement for the existence of black holes came in 1967 with the discovery by a research student at Cambridge, Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, of objects in the sky that were emitting regular pulses of radio waves. At first Bell and her supervisor, Antony Hewish, thought they might have made contact with an alien civilization in the galaxy! Indeed, at the seminar at which they announced their discovery, I remember that they called the first four sources to be found LGM 1–4, LGM standing for ‘Little Green Men.’ In the end, however, they and everyone else came to the less romantic conclusion that these objects, which were given the name pulsars, were in fact rotating neutron stars that were emitting pulses of radio waves because of a complicated interaction between their magnetic fields and surrounding matter. This was bad news for writers of space westerns, but very hopeful for the small number of us who believed in black holes at that time: it was the first positive evidence that neutron stars existed. A neutron star has a radius of about ten miles, only a few times the critical radius at which a star becomes a black hole. If a star could collapse to such a small size, it is not unreasonable to expect that other stars could collapse to even smaller size and become black holes.
How could we hope to detect a black hole, as by its very definition it does not emit any light? It might seem a bit like looking for a black cat in a coal cellar. Fortunately, there is a way. As John Michell pointed out in his pioneering paper in 1783, a black hole still exerts a gravitational force on nearby objects. Astronomers have observed many systems in which two stars orbit around each other, attracted toward each other by gravity. They also observe systems in which there is only one visible star that is orbiting around some unseen companion. One cannot, of course, immediately conclude that the companion is a black hole: it might merely be a star that is too faint to be seen. However, some of these systems, like the one called Cygnus X-1, are also strong sources of X rays. The best explanation for this phenomenon is that matter has been blown off the surface of the visible star. As it falls toward the unseen companion, it develops a spiral motion (rather like water running out of a bath), and it gets very hot, emitting X rays. For this mechanism to work, the unseen object has to be very small, like a white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole. From the observed orbit of the visible star, one can determine the lowest possible mass of the unseen object. In the case of Cygnus X-1, this is about six times the mass of the sun, which, according to Chandrasekhar’s result, is too great for the unseen object to be a white dwarf. It is also too large a mass to be a neutron star. It seems, therefore, that it must be a black hole.
The brighter of the two stars near the center of the photograph is Cygnus X–1, which is thought to consist of a black hole and a normal star, orbiting around each other.
There are other models to explain Cygnus X-1 that do not include a black hole, but they are all rather far-fetched. A black hole seems to be the only really natural explanation of the observations. Despite this, I had a bet with Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology that in fact Cygnus X-1 does not contain a black hole! This was a form of insurance policy for me. I have done a lot of work on black holes, and it would all be wasted if it turned out that black holes do not exist. But in that case, I would have the consolation of winning my bet, which would bring me four years of the magazine Private Eye. In fact, although the situation with Cygnus X-1 has not changed much since we made the bet in 1975, there is now so much other observational evidence in favor of black holes that I have conceded the bet. I paid the specified penalty, which was a one-year subscription to Penthouse, to the outrage of Kip’s liberated wife.
We also now have evidence for several other black holes in systems like Cygnus X-1 in our galaxy and in two neighboring galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The number of black holes, however, is almost certainly very much higher; in the long history of the universe, many stars must have burned all their nuclear fuel and have had to collapse. The number of black holes may well be greater even than the number of visible stars, which totals about a hundred thousand million in our galaxy alone. The extra gravitational attraction of such a large number of black holes could explain why our galaxy rotates at the rate it does: the mass of the visible stars is insufficient to account for this. We also have some evidence that there is a much larger black hole, with a mass of about a hundred thousand times that of the sun, at the center of our galaxy. Stars in the galaxy that come too near this black hole will be torn apart by the difference in the gravitational forces on their near and far sides. Their remains, and gas that is thrown off other stars, will fall toward the black hole. As in the case of Cygnus X-1, the gas will spiral inward and will heat up, though not as much as in that case. It will not get hot enough to emit X rays, but it could account for the very compact source of radio waves and infrared rays that is observed at the galactic center.
It is thought that similar but even larger black holes, with masses of about a hundred million times the mass of the sun, occur at the centers of quasars. For example, observations with the Hubble telescope of the galaxy known as M87 reveal that it contains a disk of gas 130 light-years across rotating about a central object two thousand million times the mass of the Sun. This can only be a black hole. Matter falling into such a supermassive black hole would provide the only source of power great enough to explain the enormous amounts of energy that these objects are emitting. As the matter spirals into the black hole, it would make the black hole rotate in the same direction, causing it to develop a magnetic field rather like that of the earth. Very high energy particles would be generated near the black hole by the in-falling matter. The magnetic field would be so strong that it could focus these particles into jets ejected outward along the axis of rotation of the black hole, that is, in the directions of its north and south poles. Such jets are indeed observed in a number of galaxies and quasars. One can also consider the possibility that there might be black holes with masses much less than that of the sun. Such black holes could not be formed by gravitational collapse, because their masses are below the Chandrasekhar mass limit: stars of this low mass can support themselves against the force of gravity even when they have exhausted their nuclear fuel. Low-mass black holes could form only if matter was compressed to enormous densities by very large external pressures. Such conditions could occur in a very big hydrogen bomb: the physicist John Wheeler once calculated that if one took all the heavy water in all the oceans of the world, one could build a hydrogen bomb that would compress matter at the center so much that a black hole would be created. (Of course, there would be no one left to observe it!) A more practical possibility is that such low-mass black holes might have been formed in the high temperatures and pressures of the very early universe. Black holes would have been formed only if the early universe had not been perfectly smooth and uniform, because only a small region that was denser than average could be compressed in this way to form a black hole. But we know that there must have been some irregularities, because otherwise the matter in the universe would still be perfectly uniformly distributed at the present epoch, instead of being clumped together in stars and galaxies.
Whether the irregularities required to account for stars and galaxies would have led to the formation of a significant number of ‘primordial’ black holes clearly depends on the details of the conditions in the early universe. So if we could determine how many primordial black holes there are now, we would learn a lot about the very early stages of the universe. Primordial black holes with masses more than a thousand million tons (the mass of a large mountain) could be detected only by their gravitational influence on other, visible matter or on the expansion of the universe. However, as we shall learn in the next chapter, black holes are not really black after all: they glow like a hot body, and the smaller they are, the more they glow. So, paradoxically, smaller black holes might actually turn out to be easier to detect than large ones!
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