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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 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 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 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
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.