To the average person, black holes are a terrifying mystery. The average person probably also believes surviving a fall into a black hole is impossible.
But now, two physicists who study black holes say there is a way a human could survive a fall into a black hole.
The catch? The person can do so only if the black hole is supermassive and isolated, and if they don’t plan on reporting any of their findings back to Earth.
Black holes are an essential part of the universe. They are the most abundant astrophysical objects in our universe. Still, they are very complicated and difficult to study.
The two types of black holes
The first type of black hole is electrically neutral and has roughly the same mass as our Sun.
The second type of black hole is a supermassive black hole. It has a mass that is millions or even billions times greater than our Sun.
Another distinguishing factor between the two types of black holes is the distance from their center to their “event horizon,” also known as radial distance.
A black hole’s event horizon is also the point of no return. Anything that passes this point will be swallowed by the black hole and vanish forever.
That is because at the event horizon, the black hole’s gravity is so powerful that no amount of mechanical force can overcome it. Not even light, the fastest-moving thing in the universe, can escape it, hence the name “black hole.”
The size of the event horizon depends on the mass of the black hole itself. A Black hole that has the same mass as our Sun, or one solar mass, will have an event horizon with a radius of a little bit under 2 miles.
On the other hand, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, has a mass of about 4 million solar masses. Its event horizon has a radius of 7.3 million miles.
So, someone falling into a smaller-size black hole will get significantly closer to the black hole’s center before passing the event horizon.
The black hole’s gravitational pull on a person will differ by a factor of 1,000 billion times between head and toe.
If the person is falling feet-first into the back hole, the gravitational pull on their feet will be much larger than that of their head.
The person would experience “spaghettification.” It is very unlikely that a human would survive being stretched into a long, thin noodle shape.
But a person falling into a supermassive black hole will reach the event horizon much farther away from the center of the black hole, meaning the gravitationl pull between their feet and head is almost zero.
This would allow the person to pass through the event horizon virtually unaffected.
Most black holes are surrounded by harmful gas, dust, and other hot materials.
So, to enter a black hole safely, a person would need to find a supermassive black hole that is completely isolated.
Because nothing can escape the gravitational pull once it reaches the event horizon. the person falling would never be able to return any information back to Earth to report their experience.