Space's Deepest Secrets (2016–…): Season 8, Episode 3 - Space's Deepest Secrets - full transcript

Einstein's theory of relativity predicts the existence of white holes.

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The white hole.

One of the strangest objects
in the universe.

Black holes are weird,

but white holes...
They're way weirder.

Science predicts
they should exist.

But these astronomical wonders
are so mysterious,

no one is sure
what they really are.

How do you start looking for
something that you have no idea

what it might possibly
look like?

Today, astronomers
race to find the clues

that can unlock
the secrets of white holes.



Can unexplained energy bursts
deep in space

be a sign of these
enigmatic objects?

To this day, we still don't know
what caused it.

And could a white hole
be a gateway to a different time

and space?

White holes sound like
pure science fiction,

but they could be
science reality.

We venture to the
farthest reaches of the universe,

go back in time
to the moment of its creation,

and journey through the monster
at the center of our galaxy

to hunt for the truth
about white holes.

Our universe is home to a
mind-boggling array

of mysterious objects.

Stars so magnetic
that they rip apart atoms.



Planets where diamonds
fall as rain

into oceans of liquid hydrogen.

Threads of dark matter,
billions of light-years long

that weave the entire universe
into a vast cosmic web.

Astronomers have unlocked
many of the secrets

of these weird cosmic creations.

But one theoretical object
in the vastness of our cosmos

confounds the greatest minds
in science.

It's called

the white hole.

A white hole is a super
powerful stream of energy.

That pours from an intensely
bright point in space.

It emits radiation so powerful
that nothing can venture near.

A white hole certainly has to be

one of the most
mysterious objects

that the universe
could possibly conjure up,

but you wouldn't want
to get too close.

I think if one went off
anywhere near in our galaxy

and it was pointed at us,

you wouldn't even know
it was coming.

The earth would be fried by the
light coming out in an instant.

No astronomer has ever
seen a white hole.

Does this galactic monster
really exist?

A clue lies inside
the brilliant mind

of the world's
most famous physicist.

Einstein is truly
a cultural icon.

If somebody said
the word "genius" to you,

one of the first things
you might think of

is the face of Albert Einstein,
his crazy hair and all that.

But all of that overshadows
just what a profound effect

he had on modern science.

Over a century ago,
Einstein comes up with a theory

that changes everything we know
about the universe.

Einstein's
general theory of relativity

tells us that the universe
is not as it seems.

It puts limits on what we can do
in space and time,

how fast we can travel.

It basically affects
everything we understand

about the universe itself.

Einstein's theory
stretches space, literally,

and predicts the existence

of one of the strangest objects
in the universe.

General relativity combines
space and time into space-time,

the fabric of the cosmos,

which is flexible.

Extremely heavy objects
can actually warp space-time

to create gravity Wells
around them.

The more massive the object,

the bigger and deeper
the gravity well.

But the theory predicts
one object

that could stretch space-time
to its limit,

a point so dense that nothing
escapes its thrall.

The name for this bottomless
gravity well is a black hole.

It is an object that transforms
physicist's ideas

of what's possible
in the universe.

Einstein's theory also predicts
another mind-bending object.

The equations
of general relativity

allow us to push the limits of
the universe as far as we can.

What if there's something
that's like the opposite

of a black hole... a white hole?

Well, the mathematics
of general relativity

allow for that, as well.

Einstein's equations
make it possible

for white holes to exist.

How would they work?

Clues to how they
might operate could lie

in the extreme physics
of their theoretical opposite.

A black hole.

In the 100 years
that follow Einstein's theory,

definitive proof
of a black hole's existence,

a photograph,
eludes astronomers.

Up until now,

really what we've had is
indirect evidence.

Wouldn't it be amazing

to actually see
the black heart of it itself?

How can astronomers
see a black hole

to take a picture of it?

Fortunately, Einstein's
theories predict

that black holes and white holes
both share a common feature.

Out of these
complex theories come these

mathematical predictions
that sound like science fiction,

but in reality,
they give us actual things

to search for in the universe.

One of those
science-fiction-sounding ideas

is something called
the event horizon,

this purely
mathematical boundary

that is the prediction
from the theory.

And yet this is an actual
physical surface

that we can search for.

The event horizon
of a black hole is

the invisible boundary
beyond which nothing,

not even light, can escape.

In theory, it should leave
a Mark that astronomers can see.

As matter falls into
a black hole,

it gets superheated
and when he gets superheated,

it glows and it gives off light,

so we can find it.

If this direct
evidence for the existence

of black holes
is out there in space,

then it is possible to unlock
what makes black holes tick

and use this information to
unravel how white holes work.

Photographing a black hole
is a huge challenge.

The strength of a black hole

doesn't come from its size.

It comes from its density.

You actually want to compress
as much matter as possible

into a very,
very small volume of space.

And what happens is that makes
black holes very small

and that makes them hard to see.

And in fact,
even the biggest black holes,

if you want to see them,

you're going to need a telescope
the size of the earth.

In 2017,

eight radio telescopes
across the globe joined forces

to take a first picture,

from Arizona to Hawaii

to Europe,

even the south pole.

All aim at the
exact same spot...

The heart of a galaxy
55 million light-years away.

This is the picture
that the telescope captures,

the first ever photograph
of a black hole.

This image just makes
my jaw drop.

It's not some myth.
It's not some story.

It's real data.

Now that we have
this image, that's it.

How can you be a
black-hole denier?

That would be as crazy
as saying the earth is flat.

The image proves
that black holes exist.

It also reveals
how the event horizon

of a black hole works.

And this is the first step

to unlocking
how a white hole operates.

That circle is actually
from a disk of material

swirling around the black hole.

Any light inside of that region
circles around the black hole

a few times and then falls in.

So it actually can't escape
to reach our telescope,

and it looks dark.

The photograph shows
that the event horizon really

is the point of no return
for both energy and matter.

What does reverse-engineering
the event horizon

of a black hole tell us

about how their theoretical
opposite, a white hole, works?

And could an unexplained
burst of energy

lead astronomers to the first
ever sighting of a white hole?

Astronomers are on the hunt

for the most elusive object
in the cosmos...

The white hole.

Einstein's theory of
general relativity predicts

that it can exist.

Can reverse-engineering
its twin, the black hole,

reveal how a white hole works?

Physicists believe that
a simple stream of water

unlocks the mystery
of how a white hole behaves.

It turns out that you can
demonstrate the rough behavior

of a white hole
in your kitchen sink.

So if a black hole is a region
of the universe

that something can only ever
enter and never leave,

a white hole is
the opposite of that.

It's a region that something
can only ever leave

and nothing can ever enter.

The falling water makes a circle

of fast-moving liquid
when it hits the plate.

Outside is an area
of slow-moving water.

The boundary acts like the
event horizon of a white hole.

It creates this continuous,

outward-flowing cascade of water
that serves as a kind of barrier

for anything trying to enter.

Energy or matter

from inside the white hole
gets flung out.

Energy or matter outside
the event horizon

can never enter the white hole.

It just can't.

There's this outward-flowing
barrier of water

that's preventing it
from doing so.

Flipping the physics
of black holes 180 degrees

unlocks how a white hole
should work.

What would this look like
in the depths of space?

A black hole's
immense gravity draws in

everything that gets too close.

As a planet approaches
the dark sphere

of the event horizon,

it stretches out
and disintegrates.

Once inside,

it's a one-way trip
towards the black hole's

infinitely dense heart.

A white hole works
in the opposite way.

Energy and matter accelerate
outwards from its center.

Once outside the event horizon,
nothing can return.

The science
of white holes works,

but finding one in space
is a big challenge.

The problem with
white holes is the equations

allow for a lot of different
conditions for these things,

and so we can look
all over the sky,

but we don't really know
what we're looking for.

If white holes exist,
they might last a long time

or a short time,
they might give off

one kind of light
versus another kind of light.

All of these things,
all of these variables

make them very hard
to search for.

Where might
white holes be hiding

in the universe?

What are the signs
that will help us find them?

Astronomers believe that tracing
the energy a white hole shoots

out into space
could pinpoint its position.

And it's possible that
we might have already seen one.

In June 2006,
the swift space telescope

detects a massive release
of energy...

...in a distant galaxy around
2 billion light-years away.

It is a super intense
beam of radiation

called a gamma-ray burst.

Gamma-ray bursts
are some of the most extreme

and luminous events
in the universe.

They are hyper-energetic.

The amount of energy

that these events liberate
is extraordinarily high.

The gamma-ray burst
that swift sees

lasts over 100 seconds.

A burst this long likely
comes from gamma rays

released by a star
going supernova.

NASA tasks the
Hubble space telescope

to search for the aftermath of
this probable stellar explosion.

Hubble spends weeks hunting
for the telltale glow of light

that a supernova always produces

after the initial
gamma-ray burst.

But Hubble finds no such glow.

When we followed up
and looked at this galaxy,

there wasn't anything there.

There was no supernova
associated with it.

It's as if the gamma-ray burst

appeared from nowhere.

To this day, no one knows
for sure what created it.

But one object could, in theory,
be able to blast into existence,

release a vast amount of energy,

and then simply vanish.

An explosion of light
appears from seemingly nothing.

Twin beams of intense
gamma radiation

traveling at almost
the speed of light

shoot out across space.

The gamma-ray burst.

Turning down the brightness
on this cosmic light show

reveals the possible source
of the fireworks.

A perfectly spherical ball
spewing out so much energy

that nothing can enter it,
not even light...

A white hole.

The swift space telescope spots

a number of similar
unexplained blasts

over the next 15 years.

Are these the signs
that astronomers

searching for white holes
are looking for?

Since 2006, there have been
several gamma-ray bursts

that aren't really
well-explained

by the standard models
out there.

Perhaps they could be
the long-sought white holes.

A single gamma-ray
burst releases more energy

in 10 seconds than our sun
will emit in 10 billion years.

If this mysterious gamma-ray
burst is from a white hole,

where does this energy
come from?

And how does it get inside the
white hole in the first place?

Unexplained mega
blasts of radiation

could be evidence
of elusive white holes.

How this energy gets inside them
in the first place

puzzles scientists.

Can unraveling this mystery
help astronomers pinpoint

the location
of a real-world white hole?

The solution to this puzzle
may lie inside the super dense

heart of the white hole's twin,
the black hole.

Black holes are so dense
and warp space so much,

they work like
cosmic car crushers.

Matter falling in
first gets stretched,

then so extremely compressed,
it almost ceases to exist.

Einstein's theories predict
that inside a black hole,

matter squashes to an infinitely
hot, small, and dense point.

But the problem with infinity is

that what works in theory
may not work in practice.

It's one thing to mathematically
express infinity.

It's another thing to realize
infinity in our actual universe.

And there has been
no observations

of an actual infinite density
of anything.

Physicists are now
evolving Einstein's theories

to explore what really happens
inside a black hole.

These new ideas put a limit
on how small

and how dense the heart
of a black hole can get.

And that limit could unlock
where the energy pouring out

from a white hole comes from.

Well, the idea now is that

there is a smallest amount
of volume in space.

You cannot get
any less than that.

It's not zero. Very tiny,
but it's not zero.

That's like a brick wall.

When that black hole collapses
down and hits that volume,

it basically has to stop.

One radical theory
explains what that brick wall is

and what it is made from.

Inside the nucleus of every atom
are two types of particles...

Protons and neutrons.

Inside these subatomic particles

are even smaller entities
called quarks.

Some scientists believe
if we could peer deeper,

we would find the fundamental
building blocks

of both matter and space...

Tiny quantum loops.

These are the threads
that weave together

the fabric of the universe.

These quantum loops are
the building blocks

of more than just
matter and energy.

They make up space itself.

The theory says
that it is impossible

to compress anything smaller
than the size of the loops.

That means the loops put a limit

on how dense a black hole's
heart can get.

This idea could unlock
the mystery

of where the energy blasting out
from a white hole comes from.

It's likely that there is no
infinitely small point

at the center of a black hole.

Instead, there could be a ball
of super dense matter.

It contains everything
that the black hole

has swallowed in its lifetime.

Eventually,
this ball reaches a point

where it can
contract no further,

and so it goes into reverse.

It releases matter and energy,
swallowing up its event horizon.

What was once a black hole
has bounced into a white hole.

The theory of quantum loops
unlocks where

the energy blasting
from a white hole comes from

and how it got inside
in the first place.

It states that a white hole
is one stage

in the evolution
of a black hole.

If everything
in this theory adds up,

then what this means is a
collapsing and bouncing

black hole could be a path
to a white hole.

It is possible
that bouncing black holes

unleash the mysterious
gamma-ray bursts

that astronomers detect.

But what type of black hole
could we actually see live

as it transforms
into a white hole?

And where in the sky
should astronomers point

their telescopes to capture
the moment of eruption?

Astronomers are on the
hunt for elusive white holes.

One theory states that they
release vast amounts of energy

when a quirk of quantum physics
throws black holes into reverse.

This change is called a bounce.

No astronomer has ever seen
this dramatic transformation.

Where should we point our
telescopes to witness it live?

If we're gonna
look for black holes

that are becoming white holes,

then we have to look
in the right places

and for the right things.

Space is big. It's huge.

So this is very important

if we're gonna
find these things.

Most of the black holes
in our galaxy

are stellar black holes.

Each one weighs around 10 times
more than our sun.

A stellar black hole forms
when a star dies.

It leaves behind its
super dense core

after it goes supernova.

This core collapses
under its own extreme gravity.

This gravity well is so large

that it eventually turns
into a black hole.

Our milky way contains around
100 million stellar black holes.

In theory, seeing one bounce
into a white hole

is just a matter of time.

If there's this idea

that black holes do eventually
come to the end of their lives

and turn into white holes,

couldn't we just wait
for that to happen?

There are black holes
all around us.

But there's a
problem with waiting for

stellar black holes
to turn into white holes.

The transformation
could take so long

that it will
probably never happen.

We, as flesh-and-blood
human beings on our tiny

little planet earth, think of
time as some constant force,

but it's actually not.

One of the fundamental tenets of
general and special relativity

is that time and space are
fundamentally the same thing.

And because black holes warp the
fabric of space-time so much,

they do really
crazy things with time.

So in a way, observing anything
close to a black hole

is like watching time
in really, really slow motion.

And so a black hole
could, in principle,

take trillions of years
to evolve in any real way.

The milky way is
around 13.6 billion years old.

The rules of relativity

mean that the stellar
black holes in our galaxy

are too large and too young
to bounce into white holes.

The telescopes on earth
could watch the black holes

in the milky way
for billions of years

and never see one collapse
into a white hole.

When we think of a
black hole, and we think of one

that's like 10 times
the mass of the sun

as sort of a typical
stellar-mass black hole,

that takes far longer
than the age of the universe

for this thing to rebound.

Astronomers think that
black holes must be very small

and very old

to even stand a chance
of bouncing into white holes.

Where in the cosmos
can they find them?

A clue could lie in the images

taken by the
Spitzer space telescope

that studies some of
the oldest objects in existence.

Spitzer takes this image
of a portion of the universe.

It shows a one-degree-wide
strip of the sky

and the great bear
constellation.

This tiny sliver
of space contains

50,000 visible galaxies.

The image offers
a possible glimpse of objects

that could bounce
into white holes.

To see extremely far back
in time,

astronomers must first remove
all the bright points of light

that come from closer stars
and galaxies.

The technique
leaves behind this...

A background infrared glow
coming from the ancient cosmos.

The glow comes from something
very old and very distant.

What is emitting this
huge amount of infrared energy?

Another space telescope
could unlock the mystery.

The Chandra telescope
sees the universe in x-rays.

X-rays sit at the opposite end
of the light spectrum

to infrared.

They reveal the hidden light

coming from super violent events
like supernovae.

Astronomers direct
Chandra's X-ray camera

to the exact same patch of sky
as Spitzer.

It shows that
the ancient universe also

has an uneven X-ray glow.

Astronomers use computers
to compare the two images

from the two telescopes.

They make an
extraordinary discovery.

20 percent of the bright patches
of infrared light

match up with
bright patches of x-rays.

Way, way down,
deep in the noise,

you need a computer
to pull out the statistics.

There's a correlation between
this background glow

in the x-rays and infrared,
and that's very mysterious.

No object should be able to glow

in both those types of light
brightly at once.

Astronomers believe
that there is one object

in the early universe
that could glow in this way.

Remember, we're looking eons
back in time here

at some of the earliest moments
of our universe,

and we're seeing objects
that are emitting a huge amount

of energy across
the electromagnetic spectrum.

And what's a kind of object
that could do that?

It's a black hole.

The telescopes see back in time

to before stars were even born.

How is it possible
for black holes to exist

if there were no dying stars
to make them?

And could white holes
be the missing ingredient

of theoretical tunnels
through time and space?

White holes are cosmic oddballs

born from Einstein's
theory of relativity.

One idea is that a white hole

is the last gasp
of a dying black hole,

a burst of energy released
in one giant cosmic belch.

But the only black holes ancient
enough to bounce like this

date from when the universe
contained only energy.

How is it possible
for them to exist

if there were no dying stars
to make them?

We know that black holes

took an unimaginable amount
of gravitational power to make,

and the only way we know how to
make that is an exploding star.

But is it possible the universe

had another way
to make black holes,

something that only existed
in conditions

just after the big bang?

The big bang
unleashes forces so powerful,

they could, in theory,
bend space and time

enough to make
small black holes.

Milliseconds after the big bang,

the universe is
a tangled web of pure energy.

Super dense pools of this
energy condense and collapse

under their own gravity to rip
deep Wells in space-time.

These primordial black holes
are born small.

They mature and shrink
further over billions of years.

In theory, many could now
be old enough and dense enough

to bounce into white holes

just in time for us
to spot them.

So, this type of black hole is

really, really small,
and because it's so small,

we might be in this
sort of Goldilocks zone

in our history of the universe

in which just enough time
has passed for us

actually to be observing
this transformation now.

A tiny, primordial black hole

could be astronomers' ticket

to witnessing the birth
of a white hole.

But is there something
even weirder out there

waiting to be discovered?

Einstein's theory of relativity
predicts a mind-blowing link

between black and white holes,

a tunnel to a different
place and time

known as a wormhole.

What Einstein showed us

when he invented
general relativity

is that space is not
just this background against

which everything takes place.

Space is a part of the game.

It expands, it contracts,
it warps, it waves.

And it can actually
have tunnels.

A wormhole might sound
like science fiction.

But in theory, a shortcut
through space and time

isn't a great leap
in the upside-down world

of white and black holes.

Matter and light cross the
event horizon of a black hole.

The extreme gravity inside
stretches space into a funnel.

It is theoretically possible
for something that survives

the crushing gravity
to pass through a wormhole

and emerge from a white hole

in a different part
of the universe.

So, you have a black hole
on one side

and a white hole on the other.

Now, it sounds crazy because
you can enter a black hole

at some place or time

and exit the white hole
at another place and time.

But Einstein's theory
states that a wormhole

only works as a closed system.

The problem is when you look
at the mathematics

of how a wormhole exists,
they're unstable.

If even a single atom
of hydrogen enters one,

they collapse.

A tunnel between a
black hole and a white hole

must be fed an exotic form
of matter to stay open.

Humans will need to generate
this weird material

to stop a traversable wormhole
from collapsing.

In order to make them stable,

you'd have to have some
sort of matter

that actually
has a negative energy,

and I don't think we even really
understand what that means.

So while Einstein's theories
led to the idea

that you could build
these Bridges,

how exactly they would stay open
is still a complete mystery.

But when Einstein
speaks, astronomers listen.

How can scientists
find a wormhole in deep space?

And is it possible that
one exists in our own galaxy?

Astronomers hunt for a wormhole,

a theoretical tunnel between
a black and white hole

that traverses space and time.

Their quest begins
with the black hole

that they believe lies at the
heart of our own galaxy...

Sagittarius a-star.

Every year, the European
southern observatory in Chile

takes a photograph
of the same spot

at the center of the milky way.

The data from 16 years
of observations

creates this
four-second time lapse.

It shows stars 26,000
light-years away from earth,

circling the heart
of our galaxy.

But what they orbit
appears completely invisible.

You can see these stars, and
they're moving around nothing.

You look to the center where
these stars are orbiting around,

and there's nothing there.

There has to be mass there
because it's telling these stars

how to move in this really,
really well-defined orbit.

But there's nothing there.

Astronomers believe
that only a giant black hole

has enough mass for stars
to orbit in this way.

One theory states that charting
the orbit of one of these stars

could reveal the presence
of a wormhole.

S2 is the closest star
to the likely location

of the black hole,
Sagittarius a-star.

The idea is to identify

all the different influences
on s2's orbit

to see if something unknown
affects the way

the star moves through space.

Astronomers think that the
main influence on s2's orbit

is the huge gravity
of Sagittarius a-star.

But s2 moves in a very
crowded corner of space

where other stars
and black holes

could affect its motion.

Astronomers are studying
the effects of all these objects

to calculate the path of s2
with extreme accuracy.

They're looking for
a tiny deviation

that they can't explain.

Which could be gravity
leaking through a wormhole.

The theory sounds fantastical,

but physics supports it
as a potential way

to identify the presence
of a wormhole.

Collisions between massive
objects like neutron stars

and black holes generate
gravitational disturbances.

These huge distortions in
space-time are the one thing

that could potentially
pass into white holes.

In theory, a disturbance
from a violent event

at the other end of the universe

might enter a nearby
black or white hole,

travel through a wormhole,

and emerge
from Sagittarius a-star.

This disturbance
from an unknown time and place

could then alter the orbit
of the star s2.

What if we get
better and better observations

over time and look
very carefully

at the way the star's
accelerating.

We might be able to just tease
tiny little clues

out of the orbit that there's
something else in there,

some more gravitational
exotic things,

perhaps even a wormhole.

Future telescopes
will be able to track

s2's movements
with greater precision.

If they do spot
something unusual,

Einstein's incredible
wormhole theory

could be proven correct.

If we find out that
wormholes actually do exist

and there is one
in our stellar neighborhood,

then this opens up
a whole new realm of research.

This tells us that we can now
understand space and time

in ways that we never
could have before.

So even though humans
may not be able to go

at any time in the near future,
we could start along the path

and send probes
to see what happens.

White holes are one of
the weirdest ideas in science.

They could be responsible for
unexplained blasts of radiation

that shoot across our universe.

It is possible that
they are born at the moment

super ancient black holes died.

What started as an idea
triggered by the mind

of the world's
most famous physicist

could really exist.

If Einstein turned out
to be right about white holes,

man, I would just say,
"there he is again.

He did it again.
Albert Einstein, right?"

My hero.

In the future, we
could discover a real white hole

that is a portal
to a different time and space.

All of a sudden access not only
all the space of the universe,

but the entire history and
future of the universe, as well.

And from there,
your imagination can take you

pretty much anywhere.

New telescopes promise

to unlock the mysteries
of these cosmic wonders.

White holes could exist.

And they could be out there,
just waiting to be discovered.