MadSci Network: Astronomy

Re: Black Holes and such

Date: Wed Jun 10 10:01:29 1998
Posted By: Philip Plait, Astronomer/Programmer
Area of science: Astronomy
ID: 896678071.As

:1. What is your career, and what does this involve?

I am an astronomer and a programmer. My primary job is to help calibrate the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), one of the instruments on board the Hubble Space Telescope. I help analyze data from STIS that let's us understand better how it performs. I also get to use some of that data for scientific research. I am very lucky to be able to do this!

:2. Which careers are associated with black holes?

Well, astronomy of course. Observers can use telescopes to look for evidence of black holes (STIS is a wonderful tool for this: I review a STIS black hole observation on my website). Theorists can try to model how a black hole behaves, which observers can use to look for even more evidence. Oddly, particle physics is involved as well, since the environments near black holes can be tremendously hot, a lot of odd particles can be formed.

:3. Have you had any experience with black holes?

A little. I don't study black holes directly, but I helped a bit with the STIS observations. In the past I studied supernovae, or exploding stars, and many of those form black holes. Generally though I was involved with studying the immediate surroundings of supernovae, and not what happened in the center.

:4. Do you find them interesting?

Sure! The lure of the exotic is one of the reasons I study astronomy!

:5. Did you learn about black holes during the process of your >education?

Yes. Classes I took on stellar evolution talked about them, and we had a class where we would read current papers and discuss them, and black hole papers were common.

:6. Could black holes actually provide wormholes through space?

Some theorists think so. No one really knows. The last I heard, even if they could generate a wormhole, the entrance would be microscopically small, and the gravity inside the wormhole would tear you apart. Oh well!

:7. If so, could humans ever use them?

See my answer above.

There is a lot of information about black holes on the web. A good place to start is The MadSci Library Astronomy Page. There are lots

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