Gravitational wave echoes suggest a black hole’s event horizon may be more extreme than thought. University of Waterloo research reports the first tentative detection of these echoes is caused by a microscopic quantum “fuzz” surrounding newly-formed black holes.
Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time.
These are caused by the collision of enormous but compact entities in space, such as black holes and neutron stars.
Niayesh Afshordi, a physics and astronomy professor at Waterloo, said: “According to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, nothing can escape from the gravity of a black hole once it has passed a point of no return, known as the event horizon.
“This was scientists’ understanding for a long time until Stephen Hawking used quantum mechanics to predict that quantum particles will slowly leak out of black holes, which we now call Hawking radiation.
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“Scientists have been unable to experimentally determine if any matter is escaping black holes until the very recent detection of gravitational waves.
“If the quantum fuzz responsible for Hawking radiation does exist around black holes, gravitational waves could bounce off of it, which would create smaller gravitational wave signals following the main gravitational collision event, similar to repeating echoes.”
Professor Afshordi and his co-author Dr Jahed Abedi from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics have reported the first tentative findings of these repeating echoes.
The news provides experimental evidence black holes may be radically different from what Einstein’s Theory of Relativity predicts, and lack event horizons.
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