A human could theoretically safely fall into a black hole if the black hole is large enough and completely isolated.
A new report from The Conversation breaks down how this is even possible and it boils down to the idea that if a black hole’s center is far enough away from its event horizon, a person could pass through the event horizon without the incredible gravitational pull that would otherwise kill them. This means that somebody could technically survive going into a black hole under the right conditions, but unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to return nor would they be able to report back their findings through any means.
[widget path=”global/article/imagegallery” parameters=”albumSlug=nasa-black-hole-gallery&captions=true”]
Physicists Leo Rodriguez and Shanshan Rodriguez are both assistant professors of physics at Grinnell College and they explain how this successful trip through a black hole could happen safely in their report on The Conversation. There are two main types of black holes in the universe, according to them, and one is supermassive while the other is not. The supermassive black hole, by way of its sheer size, has a mass that’s roughly 4 million times the mass of our Sun and has an event horizon with a radius of 7.3 million miles as a result.
“Thus, someone falling into a stellar-size black hole (non-supermassive size) will get much, much closer to the black hole’s center before passing the event horizon, as opposed to falling into a supermassive black hole,” the two physicists write.
A person falling into a stellar-size black hole will be much closer to the black hole’s center when passing through the event horizon, which results in a gravitational pull so large that they will likely immediately die as they’ll be stretched into a “long, thin noodle-like shape.” A person falling into a supermassive black hole, however, would safely pass through, free of noodle-like stretching, because of how far away the event horizon is from the gravity-causing center of the black hole. This black hole would not only need to be supermassive, but completely isolated from any surrounding space material, gas, or stars as well.
As a result, they would theoretically safely pass through the event horizon. What happens after that would remain that person’s secret because there’d be no way for them to pass along the knowledge of what they’re seeing and feeling, and eventually, once close enough to the center of the black hole, they would meet their demise.
Sounds like a much sadder ending than that of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, and if you haven’t yet watched that movie, you can read IGN’s thoughts on it in our Interstellar review.
For more black hole science, read this story about a black hole discovered to be the closest to Earth ever and then read about a black hole in the Milky Way seemingly changing the color of nearby stars. Check out this story about a black hole nine times larger than the Sun that’s puling in space and time after that.