What Is A Star’s Strange Path Around A Black Hole?

Black holes are some of the most mysterious phenomena in the universe. Despite their massive gravity, they don’t seem to completely snuff out the light around them, but instead cause certain stars to take on a strange path around them. So what exactly is a star’s strange path around a black hole?

Understanding Black Holes

Before we talk about the strange motion of stars around a black hole, we need to understand a bit more about these mysterious entities first. A black hole is an incredibly dense mass of material in space, with enough gravity to pull in everything around it – even light.

The most common type of black hole is one created by the collapse of a massive star. After the star has gone supernova, the gravity of its remaining core is so strong that nothing, not even photons of light, can escape. This creates the event horizon – the point of no escape – and the gravitational force pulls in anything that crosses it.

These black holes have so much mass and gravity that they warp space-time itself, causing time to slow down, and matter to speed up in their gravitational pull.

The Path Of Stars Around A Black Hole

So, now that we have an understanding of what a black hole is, we can move on to the topic of the strange paths stars take around them.

When stars are close enough to the event horizon of a black hole, the intense gravity of the black hole can cause the stars to become unstable, and suddenly switch between two orbits. These two orbits are known as the inner and outer orbit, with the star moving from one to the other as it circles the black hole.

This strange orbital pattern – often referred to as the ‘star slugging’ – was first observed in 2008 by scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope. The stars were seen spiraling in and then getting hurled back out, repeating the cycle of orbiting in and out of the black hole’s danger zone.

How The Star Slugs Keep Their Distance

So why do these stars seem to be going round and round the black hole without ever making contact? It all comes down to the tremendous gravitational pull of the black hole.

As the star approaches the black hole, space-time lengthens and stretches, moving the star away from the event horizon. As the star gets closer, and time and space seem to slow down, the gravity of the black hole pulls the star closer, and time and space speed up, sending the star back out. This cycle continues so that the star is able to travel around the black hole in an elliptical path, but never to cross the event horizon and become trapped.

Black holes are some of the most amazing, and mysterious, phenomena in the universe. One of their strangest effects is the path of stars orbiting around the event horizon. Due to the intense gravitational pull of the black hole, stars close enough to the event horizon will begin to switch between two orbits, creating a strange cycle of orbiting in and out of the black hole’s danger zone. The stars never actually touch the event horizon, instead being constantly bounced away by the extreme gravity of the black hole.