Astronomy For Kids
Children's Astronomy Website

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What are black holes?
Have you ever had to vacuum your bedroom? When you do, watch closely because you will see the dirt and crumbs start to move towards the vacuum cleaner.  A black hole is similar to a vacuum cleaner, cleaning up debris left behind in outer space.

However, it is not suction power that makes things fall into a black hole.  Suction would not be strong enough.  Instead, a black hole uses the power of gravity to pull things towards it.


How do black holes form? 
When a large star runs out of fuel it can no longer support its heavy weight. The pressure from the star's massive layers of hydrogen press down forcing the star to get smaller and smaller and smaller.  Eventually the star will get even smaller than an atom. Imagine that for a moment, an entire star squashed up into less space than a tiny atom.

How can something get smaller but retain the same amount of mass, or stuff?
It is really quite simple. If you take a sponge the size of a soda can, you can easily squish it in your hands until it is completely covered. But here is the interesting part. If you make something smaller by squishing it, its gravity becomes much stronger. Imagine then, if you squish a star into the size of an atom how powerful its gravity would become.

A black hole's gravity becomes so powerful that anything, including light that gets too close, gets pulled in. That's right, not even light can escape the grasp of a black hole.

Anatomy of a Black Hole
Black holes are made up of 3 main parts. The very outer layer of a black hole is called the Outer Event Horizon. Within the Outer Event Horizon you would still be able to escape from a black hole's gravity because the gravity is not as strong here. The middle layer of a black hole is called the Inner Event Horizon. If you didn't escape the black hole's gravity before you entered the Inner Event Horizon, then you have missed your chance to escape. The gravity in this layer is much stronger and does not let go of objects it captures. At this point you would begin to fall towards the center of the black hole. The center of a black hole is called the Singularity. This is simply a big word that means squashed up star. The Singularity is where the black hole's gravity is the strongest.

How can you fall into a black hole?
Think of the Earth. When you are in outer space you can float around. If you get too close to the Earth you will be pulled in by its gravity. On the Earth, you could leave again in a rocket ship. However, if you fall into a black hole, there would be no way to get out because the gravity is so powerful.




astronomy and space for children
astronomy for children