With black holes apparently being something of a "hot topic" in media and with the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded for work on these enigmatic celestial bodies, there are a number of reasons these objects are downright scary, Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy at University of Arizona writes in his article published by The Conversation.
As the professor explains, first and foremost, actually falling into a black hole would result in being subjected to a painful process called "spaghettification" that was popularised by Stephen Hawking.
"In spaghettification, the intense gravity of the black hole would pull you apart, separating your bones, muscles, sinews and even molecules," the author remarked. "As the poet Dante described the words over the gates of hell in his poem Divine Comedy: Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."
Second, the supermassive black holes that exist at the center of virtually every galaxy out there have "insatiable appetites", with any object which gets too close at risk of being sucked into them, never to return.
Also, such a wayward traveller might also get blasted by high-energy radiation if a black hole they approach is in its "quasar state".
"How bright is a quasar? Imagine hovering over a large city like Los Angeles at night. The roughly 100 million lights from cars, houses and streets in the city correspond to the stars in a galaxy", the professor writes. "In this analogy, the black hole in its active state is like a light source 1 inch in diameter in downtown LA that outshines the city by a factor of hundreds or thousands. Quasars are the brightest objects in the universe".
And last but not least, black holes are downright "strange", as laws of physics simply seem to get "obliterated" there.
"We can’t understand the interior of a black hole because the laws of physics break down," Impey states, noting that at the heart of each black hole resides "singularity, a point in space where the density is infinite". "We can’t understand the interior of a black hole because the laws of physics break down. Time freezes at the event horizon and gravity becomes infinite at the singularity."