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Albert Einstein predicted that black holes should bend light around them
Albert Einstein – Photograph by By Ferdinand Schmutzer (public domain)

Albert Einstein (1879 -1955) “predicted that the gravitational pull of black holes were so strong that they should bend light right around them.” In science fiction black holes are sometimes portals to other universes. In science fact, a black hole is a region of spacetime where gravity is so strong that nothing can escape from it, not even light. ABC science reporter reported that astronomers have caught a glimpse of light being reflected — or “echoing” — from behind a supermassive black hole, 800 million light years away from Earth.

“The innermost regions of accretion disks around black holes are strongly irradiated by X-rays that are emitted from a highly variable, compact corona, in the immediate vicinity of the black hole. The X-rays that are seen reflected from the disk and the time delays, as variations in the X-ray emission echo or ‘reverberate’ off the disk provide a view of the environment just outside the event horizon. IZwicky1 is a nearby narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxy,” Daniel R. Wilkins, L.C. Gallo, E. Constantini, W. N. Brandt, and R.D. Blandford reported in Nature Magazine.

How It Works

{image via ESA}
  1. Hot spinning disk of gas falls into the black hole.
  2. The corona poduces bright flares of X-Ray light.
  3. X-rays reflect off the disk.
  4. X-ray echoes from behind the black hole are bent around by its extreme gravity.

What does this mean in layman’s terms?

A. Even dead, Einstein is smarter than you and me.

B. Black holes are as weird as they are massive.

C. Because of their extreme gravity, they pull in gas, dust, asteroid chunks, space debris, etc., and even light into the black hole.

As material gets sucked into the black hole, it releases a plume of super-hot particles called the corona, which emits X-ray flares.

Some X-rays manage to slip past the black hole’s massive gravitational pull, only to get sucked back in, but a small percentage of these escapee X-rays reflect off the back of the accretion disk and are bent around the black hole by its formidable gravity.

Dan Wilkins, an astrophysicist at Stanford University, said “Any light that goes into that black hole doesn’t come out, so we shouldn’t be able to see anything that’s behind it … the reason we can see that is because that black hole is warping space, bending light and twisting magnetic fields around itself.”

Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.

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