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In New 'Ask a Spaceman' Episode, Black Holes Are Doomed to Die

We're back into the weird science of black holes in this week's installment of "Ask a Spaceman." In this episode, astrophysicist and Space.com columnist Paul Sutter explains why a black hole is doomed to die from the moment that it is born.

This week's episode (which you can watch here ) is the second entry in a two-part series about black holes and Episode 5 of an ongoing series on Facebook Watch that is produced in partnership with Space.com. To make sure you understand what's going on in Episode 5, we recommend you catch up on Episode 4 first, which covered the theory of black holes more generally.

While we think of the vacuum of space as empty, on the quantum scale — the scale of subatomic particles — that vacuum is actually vibrating with energy, Sutter said. Or as he put it, "Basically, space-time itself is buzzing a little bit." Sutter explained a little more about this energy in a past Space.com column about black holes, which you can read here.

Sutter then gave his interpretation of physicist Stephen Hawking's theories about how black holes die. As a black hole is forming from a massive gravitational collapse in space, such as through a star's dying supernova explosion, the black hole's gravity drags some of the quantum "fuzz" with it, Sutter explained.

When this happens, some of the quantum particles from the vacuum get trapped at the boundary of the black hole. They are close enough to orbit the black hole but not close enough to be trapped forever — which, yes, seems to shatter our illusion that nothing escapes from black holes. Eventually, the particles escape and, over time, sap enough energy that the black hole disintegrates.

"Ask a Spaceman" episodes are released weekly on Wednesdays at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT), so "like" the Facebook page or check back later to see more. Sutter also responds to reader questions in every episode. Check the page to learn more about past topics covered in the show, such as the Big Bang and Pluto.

Sutter is a cosmologist at The Ohio State University and chief scientist at Columbus Ohio's Center of Science and Industry. He has a long-running podcast, also called "Ask a Spaceman." You can catch all past episodes here.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.