(ORDO NEWS) — Everyone knows that there are huge supermassive black holes – they are located in the centers of galaxies. But do stellar-mass black holes exist, and what’s wrong with them?
Black holes actually dot the galaxy. But in addition to the monstrous supermassive black holes, there are much smaller stellar-mass holes. There are more of them in the universe.
Stellar-mass black holes, ranging in size from a few to hundreds of solar masses, dot the universe. There are an estimated ten million to a billion stellar-mass black holes in our Milky Way alone .
That seems like a lot, until you consider that there are between 100 and 400 billion stars in our galaxy. But what exactly are stellar-mass black holes? And how do these mysterious voids in space differ from their huge counterparts?
How are black holes different?
Not every star can turn into a black hole; only the most massive achieve this coveted status. The smallest stellar-mass black holes come from stars that are at least 2-3 times the mass of our Sun.
The process of turning into a black hole occurs quickly, but it is preceded by billions of years of “preparation” – the star gradually burns its thermonuclear fuel, becoming denser and colder.
Eventually, the core of the star contracts so much that it pushes out the outer shell of gas. For stars slightly more massive than the Sun, these collapsing outer layers bounce off the star’s core, exploding it like a supernova.
But in the case of the most massive stars, nothing can stop the crushing collapse. Such stars are destined to become stellar-mass black holes when they die.
But star aging isn’t the only way a black hole can form. A white dwarf or neutron star can also become a stellar mass black hole, but they need some help.
They must take enough material from their companion star to eventually reach the mass threshold needed to collapse into a black hole.
There are also supermassive black holes, with millions or billions of times the mass of the Sun. These gravitational Goliaths are at the centers of most, if not all, galaxies. But while they are well documented, exactly how they first formed is still a matter of debate.
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