Black hole 'morsels' may finally prove Stephen Hawking's famous theory

By Jurassic JennJun 8, 2024 12:38 PMScience
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Black hole 'morsels' may finally prove Stephen Hawking's famous theory
Black hole 'morsels' may finally prove Stephen Hawking's famous theory . Source: www.newscientist.com

Black hole 'morsels' could potentially offer empirical evidence for Stephen Hawking's groundbreaking theory regarding the evaporation of black holes. Despite its renowned status, Hawking radiation remains a theoretical concept that has not been observed. However, scientists propose that the key to confirming this theory lies in the aftermath of colossal black hole collisions.

According to Hawking, smaller black holes emit Hawking radiation faster than their larger counterparts. This means that supermassive black holes, with masses millions or billions of times that of the sun, would take longer than the expected lifetime of the universe to completely dissipate. However, scientists have now identified tiny black holes that could provide observable evidence of Hawking radiation. These small black holes, known as "Bocconcini di Buchi Neri" in Italian, could evaporate and reach their finite lifetimes within a humanly observable timeframe.

The research team believes that during catastrophic events such as the merger of two astrophysical black holes, these minuscule black holes are launched into space. To understand and observe the impact of this phenomenon, the scientists investigated the production of numerous black hole morsels.

The concept of Hawking radiation originated in a 1974 letter by Stephen Hawking that aimed to reconcile quantum theory and general relativity. The temperature of a black hole is inversely proportional to its mass, resulting in the strangeness of colder, more massive black holes and hotter, less massive ones. For instance, even in space's coldest regions, the presence of "cosmic microwave background" radiation, a cosmic fossil from the early universe, maintains a temperature of approximately minus 454 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 270 degrees Celsius). And according to the second law of thermodynamics, heat cannot flow from colder objects to hotter ones.

For the purposes of observing Hawking radiation, it is crucial to focus on black holes that emit this thermal radiation, which tends to be the case for only smaller black holes. Most black holes in the current universe, predominantly of astrophysical origin, do not emit observable Hawking radiation due to their significant masses.

Detecting the evaporation of morsel black holes presents a unique challenge. Unlike the supermassive black holes studied using the Event Horizon Telescope, the size of these black holes prevents direct imaging. However, the team proposes that the presence of unleashed gamma-ray bursts in the regions of black hole mergers could indicate the evaporation of these morsel black holes.

As the morsel black holes emit Hawking radiation and lose mass, their evaporation intensifies, leading to explosive destruction. The team's research suggests that morsel black holes with masses ranging from 20,000 tons to 100,000 kilotons could potentially provide observable evidence of their evaporation within a timeframe of 16 years to hundreds of years, respectively. The light emitted during their evaporation would possess energies exceeding the trillion electron volts (TeV) range, comparable to the energy generated by CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

To verify the existence of morsel black holes, scientists propose the detection of black hole merger events through gravitational wave emissions, followed by observation using gamma-ray telescopes. However, they acknowledge that substantial further research is necessary before confirming the existence of these enigmatic morsel black holes and definitively validating Hawking radiation.

"This is a new idea, and there is a lot of work to do," concludes Giacomo Cacciapaglia, one of the researchers involved in the study. The team aims to develop a more comprehensive model of Hawking radiation emission at high energies and collaborate experimentally to search for distinctive signatures within relevant datasets. Additionally, they plan to investigate in detail the production of morsel black holes during catastrophic astrophysical events, such as black hole mergers.

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