Black hole: Scientists discover one of smallest on record
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In 1976, seminal research published by Professor Stephen Hawking had found black holes emit thermal radiation. Prior to this discovery, scientists had believed black holes were inert objects that did not interact with their environment. A duo of researchers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Sussex have now taken Professor Hawking’s theories one step further and they have done so completely by accident.
According to the researchers, black holes are even more complex thermodynamic systems than previously thought.
As well as having a temperature, black holes are now also believed to have a pressure, which the Sussex researchers have found in equations.
University of Sussex’s Professor Xavier Calmet and PhD student Folkert Kuipers were baffled by an extra figure that cropped in equations relating to so-called quantum gravitational corrections to the entropy of a Schwarzschild or static black hole.
After discussing the shocking result, they realized what they had found was pressure being created.
The researchers then crunched the numbers to confirm their discovery and found quantum gravity can actually lead to pressure in Schwarzschild black holes.
Professor Calmet said: “Our finding that Schwarzschild black holes have a pressure as well as a temperature is even more exciting given that it was a total surprise.
“I’m delighted that the research that we are undertaking into quantum gravity has furthered the scientific communities’ wider understanding of the nature of black holes.
“Hawking’s landmark intuition that black holes are not black but have a radiation spectrum that is very similar to that of a black body makes black holes an ideal laboratory to investigate the interplay between quantum mechanics, gravity and thermodynamics.
“If you consider black holes within only general relativity, one can show that they have a singularity in their centres where the laws of physics as we know them must breakdown.”
Professor Calmet also said this discovery has the possibility of creating a whole new description of black holes all together.
He added: “Our work is a step in this direction, and although the pressure exerted by the black hole that we were studying is tiny, the fact that it is present opens up multiple new possibilities, spanning the study of astrophysics, particle physics and quantum physics.”
Professor Calmet’s PhD student, Mr Kuipers said: “It is exciting to work on a discovery that furthers our understanding of black holes.
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“The pin-drop moment when we realized that the mystery result in our equations was telling us that the black hole we were studying had a pressure – after months of grappling with it – was exhilarating.”
“Our result is a consequence of the cutting-edge research that we are undertaking into quantum physics and it shines a new light on the quantum nature of black holes.”
The study paper was published in the journal Physical Review D.
Professor Hawking died in 2018 at the age of 76 after many years of fighting a form of motor neurone disease.
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