Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

In the night sky: Orion
In the night sky: Orion

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.3.10 Black hole cannibal

How can anyone find black holes? No light can escape from one, so it might seem impossible to observe them, but they can have a detectable influence on nearby objects.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_orion_vid_1064.mp4
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

As you can see in the animation, if a star orbits too closely to a black hole, the intense gravitational field of the black hole tears material from the surface of the star, which then falls into the black hole. As the material falls in, it heats up to very high temperatures and the energy can be radiated away as X-rays.