Guide To Black Hole Safety

CreditNASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
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Have you ever thought about visiting a black hole? We sure hope not. However, if you're absolutely convinced that a black hole is your ideal vacation spot, watch this video before you blast off to learn more about them and (more importantly) how to stay safe.

You can also download a handy safety brochure, watch short clips to learn different things about black holes, and even get some short glimpses into the lives of black holes and the explorers that want to visit them.


[music throughout] Narrator: So you want to visit a black hole. You’ve packed your bags, you've
updated your passport, and you’re basically ready to jump on a spaceship and blast off.
However, before you do that, I have just one piece of advice: Don’t.
[sound effects: Alien walking out from behind word]
[sound effects: Alien walking, pulling out flag] Narrator: Ok…if you really MUST go,
I suppose you should at least know a few things about black holes before you leave.
First, you should know exactly what a black hole IS. A black hole is a
physical object in space, just like everything else. It’s made up of a tiny but massive
point where gravity and density are infinite, a line beyond which everything, [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Singularity”]
Including light, can only fall INTO that tiny point, and sometimes some glowing stuff orbiting around it [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Event Horizon”]
and maybe some radiation. So basically, here [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Accretion Disk” and “Radiation Cones”]
Is kinda bad, here is really bad, and here is safe. [SCENE DESCRIPTION: “kinda bad” pointers aim at radiation cones, “really bad” pointers aim at event horizon and center of black hole, and “safe” is everywhere else]
Also, black holes mostly come in two sizes. Don’t ask me why—we still aren’t sure. <>
However, a black hole is also NOT a lot of things.
It is not a hole, a cosmic vacuum cleaner, a portal to another
dimension populated by unicorns and space potatoes, and absolutely NOT
a good place to vacation. [postcard showing the singularity is on-screen and is quickly crossed out]
Ok, fine. I guess next you’ll need to know how to FIND a black hole.
Though technically black holes could just sneak up behind you, they likely won’t. The nearest
known one is 3,000 light-years away anyway. However, if you WERE to go looking
for one, there are a couple of good ways to find them. First, black holes
tend to mess with their environments, so you can sometimes use interesting clues, such as
A bunch of stuff orbiting what appears to be…nothing. [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Orbiting Stars”]
And second, as we mentioned before, there’s often glowing stuff orbiting around them, caused by, well,
when things get too close. So now that you’ve FOUND a black hole
and CLEARLY aren’t listening to me saying not to go, it’s time for a few important
safety considerations. First of all, the GOOD news is that [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Fig. 1: Safe Zones”]
as long as you stay far away, black holes aren’t all that bad. [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Safe” marking most of the screen, with “Not Safe” indicating tiny area around the black hole]
However, as you get close, you need to keep a few things in mind. The radiation near the black hole [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Fig. 2: Be Careful!”]
can be extremely deadly, the chances of escape get slimmer the closer you get, [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Safe” label showing paths away from the black hole, and “No!” label showing paths toward the black hole]
and, if you get close enough, you now have to worry about being stretched into a giant noodle
and time getting really weird. So, unless you have great radiation shields, [ONSCREEN TEXT: “Fig 3: Unrealistic Solutions”]
a faster-than-light spaceship, or you’re completely indestructible, you should probably
just stay away. Well, that pretty much sums up black holes—
at least, before things start getting really complicated. But, before you go for real,
please refer to the handy brochure in your spacesuit pocket, since there’s quite a bit to remember.
Now then, remember your tickets, enjoy your trip, and please…
…be careful. [music ends]