Space's Deepest Secrets (2016–…): Season 4, Episode 5 - Wrath of the Black Hole - full transcript

New discoveries change everything known about black holes, and using the latest science and technology, experts reveal secrets to the mysterious behind these strange and deadly places

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black holes

the most mysterious objects in the

cosmos the universe is bizarre but if

you were to make a list and say what's

at the top black holes my calls excite

the imagination the fact that we see

them at all is extraordinary their

immense gravity makes black holes the

most destructive objects in the universe

they can rip apart a star in seconds but

they have another side these are not

horrible dangerous things

these are wonderful mysterious parts of

a universe to unlock the secrets of

black holes we will strip them apart

we will reveal how black holes are born

how they waged the most violent battles

in the cosmos

and how one day humans could travel

through them


black holes


the most powerful objects in the


capable of destroying entire worlds

for decades they have terrified us

with their mystery and darkness the

reason why we call a black hole black is

because light cannot be emitted from

inside the black hole it's a one-way

street it can go in but it can't come

out if you're close to a black hole

they're terrifying there's huge amounts

of matter that can fall into them this

matter gets very hot it gets torn apart

it falls into this basically infinitely

deep hole in the universe itself but

there's more to black holes than chaos

and destruction the more we learn about

black holes the more we understand they

have a real purpose in our universe

there's sort of cosmic organizers they

bring things together could new

discoveries change how we see black

holes I definitely think it's time for

an image makeover for black holes black

holes are more than darkness

stripping away a doughnut-shaped shroud

of cold dust on the outside

reveals a huge disc of cosmic debris

spinning at millions of miles an hour

this is where the black hole feasts

gasps dust shattered stars and planets

all descend into the gaping mouth of the

black hole it's called the event horizon

it's a perfectly dark sphere from which

no light can escape inside the laws of

the cosmos break down

black holes are a place where some of

the rules we think about in the universe

don't apply as well as they do out here

when you're falling into a black hole

you move faster and faster and faster

and you finally reach the speed of light

as you pass into the black hole itself

but then what happens inside of that we

don't know we are confronting something

that the human brain doesn't understand

where space and time itself break down

don't behave the way we think of them

that's going to push us to evolve to

understand the very nature of reality

better thirty years ago black holes were

purely theoretical a mathematical

prediction made by Einstein

but now we know they're very real

this is our galaxy the Milky Way

and stripping away at stars planets

rocks and dust

reveals a dark secret

lurking in the shadows is a massive

black hole Sagittarius a star

four million times the mass of our Sun

and just 26,000 light-years from Earth

studying this tightener offers us a

chance to understand how black holes

truly work

on top of Hawaii's tallest mountain

Mauna Kea scientists at the Keck

Observatory do just that


astronomer James like studies

Sagittarius a star


it's so unique to have a black hole that

massive that close to us because all the

other ones that are that massive are so

far away and other galaxies getting to

his office requires a 14,000 foot climb

along a steep and winding dirt road

I've loved telescopes for a long time

and these are the these are the biggest

and the best so if you want to get the

faintest objects in the universe if you

want to look at the finest detail you

have to come to cut takes your breath

away today James prepares ax 300 ton

telescope to monitor Sagittarius a star

the telescope's can come very close

right behind me you know it takes a

dedicated crew of funny guys to get this

thing running every night of the year

it's a very complex machine the constant

movement of the Earth's atmosphere bends

light and makes stars twinkle

this distortion stopped scientists from

getting a clear view of the Milky Way

but the team at Keck has cracked this

problem as night falls James shoots a

bright laser 50 miles off into the

atmosphere we take pictures of the

return from that laser it gets fuzzed up

by the atmosphere just the same way as

the natural star does by altering the

telescope's mirrors James brings this

beam of light into focus this allows him

to calibrate the telescope and obtain

the sharpest images ever seen of objects

in the Milky Way it's a revolution in

astronomy this is a technology that was

dreamed about for years it's a bit of a

game changer and we now can see things

that we never could see before James and

his team are making startling

discoveries that are changing our

understanding of how black holes work

they have detected a mysterious object

close to Sagittarius a star

it's called g2

a cloud of interstellar gas which may

contain a star

bitch future is bleak

scientists believe the black hole will

slingshot part of the cloud into space

and then Gorge on their remains growing

even more massive and powerful

jeetu happens to be one of the closest

objects to the black hole anytime you

get that close to that extreme of an

environment you'll get to see new

physics so you get to see fantastic

things soon the team will see a black

hole feeding for the very first time

Sagittarius a star is four million times

more massive than the Sun but 300

million light years away there's a black

hole five thousand times larger

deep inside a galaxy called NGC 4889

is the biggest black hole ever found

it's so powerful it can shred supergiant

stars that come too close


what gives black holes the power to

destroy entire worlds


26,000 light-years from Earth

a black hole called Sagittarius a star

is about to shred and swallow a gas


why do black holes have such massive


and how do they form

the way that a black hole can form is by

the death of a massive star you need a

star that has at least 8 10 20 times the

mass of the Sun

and they can actually produce millions

of times the energy that the Sun

produces putting out in just a few

seconds as much energy as the Sun does

in an entire year

these are the hypergiant the biggest

stars in the universe

as they run out of fuel they begin to


when they can no longer hold up their

own weight they collapse releasing a

massive burst of energy

a supernova so powerful that only the

Big Bang was bigger

the remaining core keeps collapsing and

squeezing into a single point in space

smaller than an atom

a black hole is born this Observatory in

Southern California is the workplace of

one of the few people on earth to

witness this process Doug Leonard hunts

for black holes in 2005 an alert went

out that a new supernova had appeared in

the galaxy NGC 266 my reaction was to

try to get a very close-up detailed

picture of the supernova right around it

and that's what we did with this picture

Doug scoured the archives of the Hubble

Space Telescope and discovered that

before the star collapsed it was a hyper

giant and this made me very excited

because it's just the kind of star that

we think after it dies leaves behind a

black hole if Doug looks at this point

in space now it is no longer bright and

according to our best theories and

calculations right there is a brand-new

black hole

that looks good beautiful night no


despite nine years of searching Doug

hasn't found another supernova big

enough to form a black hole all right

we're ready to roll let's go now he

studies the biggest black holes in the

universe those like Sagittarius a star

with millions of times the mass of our

Sun the supermassive black holes

a supermassive black holes grow there

increasing gravity pulls more and more

objects into a gigantic revolving disk

inside friction builds up

and the disk starts to glow

the faster the disk spins the greater

the friction and the brighter it becomes

Doug's team can measure the intensity of

this glow and then calculate the power

and size of a black hole

very simply the faster things orbit the

black hole the more massive the black

hole has to be because more gravity has

to be tugging harder on the object to

make it orbit more quickly

using this technique Doug is finding

black holes tens of millions of times

the size of the Sun

hopefully we can push these kinds of

studies to greater and greater distances

and better understand the dynamics of

all supermassive black holes black holes

are the Dark Horse's of the cosmos but

supermassive black holes are linked with

far far brighter lights

back in the 1960s when people were

pointing radio telescopes and x-ray

telescopes in the sky they were

detecting really powerful sources of


scientists call them quasars

they weren't explosions just very

intense lights that outshined entire

galaxies when we first realized how

bright quasars really were

we couldn't account for the amount of

energy what could possibly be creating

that much energy so imagine you've got a

source of energy which you know is very

far away and is very bright which means

it's incredibly powerful it must be

fantastically luminous something must be

generating that energy what could

possibly be an engine big enough to

power something so big you can see it

clear across the universe the answer is

a supermassive black hole

if too much matter squeezes into its

mouth collisions become so violent they

release gigantic amounts of energy

immense luminous jets spray out hundreds

of thousands of light years into space

this is a quasar

the brightest light in the cosmos

black holes are such voracious eaters

but they eat like the cookie monster

most of what they eat does not end up

inside a lot of it gets spit out and it

gets heated to these immense

temperatures and that matter glows very

very brightly as material falls down

this giant gravitational well into a

black hole it's almost like it's in a

particle accelerator accelerates faster

and faster it's hotter and brighter and

all of a sudden you can see these things

from clear across the universe some

quasars are epic

three billion light years from Earth

astronomers have discovered a quasar

called 3c273 the brightest known object

in the universe at its heart is a

supermassive black hole a billion times

heavier than the Sun it consumes 600

times the mass of the earth every minute

and spits out a hundred times more

energy than all 300 billion stars in the

Milky Way combined astronomers are now

detecting these bright lights all over

the universe

as we scan the cosmos and we look ever

deeper we see more and more quasars and

there's only one way to form a quasar

that's a supermassive black hole and

we're finding them by the millions so

these things are everywhere

once we thought black holes were purely

theoretical now we know that billions

exist across space why are there so many

black holes in the universe


black holes once scientists thought they

were extremely rare but now they're

discovering billions of them across the

cosmos why are there so many

there's this idea and it's it's strange

that every major galaxy in the universe

has a supermassive black hole in its

center and then people started to look

over their shoulders and wonder could

there be one at the heart of our own

Milky Way galaxy at four million times

the mass of the Sun Sagittarius a star

is a supermassive black hole could this

be the center of the Milky Way

in Los Angeles a team of scientists

tackles this question


astronomer Andrea Ghez pins down the

role of Sagittarius a star black holes

themselves are very dark objects you

can't see them directly what is

available to us is the influence of its

gravitational field so we're studying

the Stars that are the closest to the

black hole and watching how these stars

move after two decades the team is

discovering something remarkable about

Sagittarius a star all these stars that

we measure are all going around the

black hole they're just going around on

different timescales the immense gravity

of Sagittarius a star holds all these

stars in their orbits

stripping back the dust and gas in the

Milky Way reveals these stars are not


every single object in the Milky Way

orbits around a single point in space

the supermassive black hole Sagittarius

a star

the center and master of our galaxy

it is 26,000 light-years away from Earth

but even at this distance we cannot

escape the grasp of this supermassive

black hole

the earth is also moving around the

center of the galaxy and we are

traveling at 500,000 miles per hour


Sagittarius a star is not the only black

hole that controls the galaxy as

scientists scan more and more galaxies

across the universe they're discovering

a supermassive black hole at the center

of every single one far from being rare

supermassive black holes are everywhere

there's millions and hundreds of

millions of galaxies in the observable

universe and there's a supermassive

black hole at the center of each one

that is insane

but it gets better


supermassive black holes don't just

anchor galaxies

they may also build them

a black holes intense gravity pulls

passing stars into orbit

their combined mass attracts more and

more stars

and slowly forms the galaxies we see

today with a supermassive black hole at

their centers that's both master and

maker this is forcing us to reevaluate

the way we thought galaxies formed in

the first place and it also is making us

reevaluate the role that black holes

have in the universe

so you think black holes to get galaxies

you need galaxies to form stars you need

stars to form planetary systems you need

planets to host beings like us and so

the black hole is in fact an anchor for

our very existence

black holes are shaping our universe but

could they also threaten the future of

our galaxy


our universe may seem like a serene and

peaceful place but looks are deceptive


space looks really tranquil we look at

it from Earth it looks beautiful and

peaceful but really is a lot of violence

going on out there

stars are exploding galaxies are

colliding so I see myself surrounded by

a universe of drama our galaxy the Milky

Way is heading for one of the most

dramatic events in the cosmos

in four billion years it will smash into

our nearest neighbor the Andromeda


at 250,000 miles per hour

the two galaxies will start to merge

into a new super galaxy called milk

dromeda and their black holes are

predicted to collide

across the universe black hole

collisions are common but their dark

nature makes it impossible to see what

happens during these impacts


Jamison Rollins hunts for these


he doesn't look at black holes he

listens to them

these are his ears

like Oh a 1 billion dollar network of

tunnels and lasers we're really opening

up a new window on the universe we're

starting to listen to the universe in a

way that we've never listened to it

before the immense gravity of a black

hole causes ripples in the fabric of

space once online LIGO we'll listen out

for these gravitational waves LIGO is an

l-shaped instrument where the lengths of

the arms of the L are two and a half

miles long and we essentially shoot

laser beams down the arm and we can very

very very precisely measure the length

of the space in the arm when a

gravitational wave comes by it causes

that space to very slightly shrink and

expand and we can measure that


this movement is tiny less than the

width of an atom but once the team

completes LIGO in a few months they will

be able to hear the sound of black holes

colliding when they're orbiting around

each other in a sort of constant rate

you hear a single tone and but as they

emit the gravitational waves they get

closer together they move faster and the

signal goes up in pitch and in amplitude

so it makes a chirp and until they

eventually collide and explode

the sounds they will detect are just

faint echoes of the real event

the violence of a black hole collision

is inconceivable

deep inside a bean shaped cloud of hot

dense stellar debris

the black holes fight for supremacy

they accelerate as they get closer and


finally they smash into each other

sending a massive shockwave tearing

through the cosmos

it's hard to say what I'm gonna be

feeling when the first signals come in I

mean I've been working on this my entire

career and it will be incredibly

exciting I'm sure we'll have a big party

but if LIGO confirms our theories on

black hole collisions the future looks

grim for our galaxy when the black holes

of the Centers of the Milky Way and

Andromeda merge they will create a


a black hole powerful enough to consume

millions of stars

the survivors will face brutal

reorganization under the new master

the black hole's extreme gravitational

pull will throw planets into new orbits

and cause stars to collide

chaos will reign

a single black hole will control the

fate of trillions of stars and planets

you might think the Sun is powerful you

might think even a big massive star is

powerful but the most powerful of all is

a black hole scientists have discovered

how black holes form galaxies and

dictate their futures


but one big mystery remains what happens

deep inside a black hole

black holes were once just a theory a

prediction made by Einstein

now we know they control galaxies and

power the brightest lights in the cosmos

but they still hide a secret something

that even Einstein couldn't see

what happens if we venture inside the

event horizon the boundary surrounding a

black hole from which light cannot


I think that would be a pretty cool

mission just the idea of exploring

something like that I think that would

be quite an opportunity for the

astronauts of the future we actually

have a pretty good understanding of what

happens outside of a black hole but we

don't know what happens at that final

split-second that shaves slice of time

when you pass that point of no return

and hit the event horizon in Scotland a

remarkable experiment intends to reveal

what's beyond the event horizon


it's the brainchild of Daniela fagio

it's basically unexplored territory and

that's where we can really push the

boundaries of our knowledge

fatiah doesn't use a telescope and he's

not an astronaut instead he makes black

holes in his lab his key ingredient is

light we have extremely powerful lasers

which forced the light to start to

behave and start to flow as if it were a


near a black hole space also flows like

a fluid it moves towards the event

horizon like a river heading downstream

imagine a flowing body of water and

you're trying to swim against this flow

what you'll feel is the vapor will try

to drag you along with it and this is

exactly what a gravitational field is

doing outside a black hole

Biagio forces light into a tight

whirlpool just like matter descending

into a real black hole and he's making

scientific breakthroughs

when he fires a wave of light towards

one of his black holes something strange

happens he can see these waves which are

moving they're essentially frozen at the

boundary of the horizon that we've

generated these frozen waves confirm a

prediction of Einstein's most famous

theory relativity Einstein thought that

near a black hole gravity would start

stretching time a second would expand to

years or even centuries seeing from a

distance objects would seem frozen in

time exactly what Fangio sees with his

experimental black holes he is confident

the same thing happens in space few were

to observe a spaceship or someone

falling into black holes from very far

away you would actually never see that

person passed through the event horizon

you would see them approach the event

horizon time as seen from us would slow

down and we'd see them slowed down and

essentially remain frozen on the event

horizon forever

but the astronauts inside the spaceship

wouldn't notice time being stretched

they'd experience the same gravity

changes as their surroundings

for them time passes normally while

gravity drags them to the event horizon

even Einstein didn't know what happens


but Fat Joe thinks his experiment will

one day solve this scientific mystery

it's as if this was a slice directly

through the spear of a real black hole

this allows him to see beyond the event

horizon and prove the inner workings of

a black hole for the first time this is

really exciting I think this is where or

the new physics is hiding with this new

scientific knowledge we would finally

explain what happens inside a black hole

for now what lies beyond the event


remains a mystery

some think there's a fiery Inferno it

could be like a giant firewall that

everything gets sucked in at once that

old smashes together and kind of

vaporizes in a big explosion others

predict something called a singularity

it's where all space and time converge

into a single point and time to time

comes to a stop which is crazy to think

about while some think the blackhole

spaghettify z-- everything that enters

if you go into a black hole

feet-first then the force of gravity at

your feet will be much stronger than a

force of gravity at your head and you

get stretched out into this long thin

strip till eventually your molecules

break apart and your atoms break apart

and you basically go into the black hole

as a thin strip of vapor


black holes defy understanding

but theoretically there could be

something even stranger out there

a black hole reversed

a white hole

instead of sucking matter in

it spits it out into a frantic volcano

of energy

white holes could open up new horizons

for Humanity

one of the amazing properties of black

holes and white holes is that sometimes

they can link to form a wormhole and

when that happens you can enter the

black hole at one place in the universe

and exit the white hole at a very

different place so in an essence the

black hole sucks you in and the white

hole spits you out if these bridges

exist they offer a tantalizing



could we travel through these wormholes

and what would this journey be like


once they were a science fiction writers

wildest dream but now scientists believe

wormholes are very real and they could

revolutionize space exploration


the beauty of a wormhole is that it

allows us to travel vast distances it

almost no time at all imagine if I

wanted to travel to the Milky Way galaxy

that in this example is that this end of

the paper to the Andromeda galaxy at

this end of the paper that's 2 million

light years even if I travel it at the

speed of light it would take me 2

million years but with the wormhole you

can bend space sufficiently that you can

go from this side to that side in almost

no time at all

entering the wormhole would make

unimaginable journeys possible

we could take trips in days or even

hours that would previously take

billions of years

barreling through this tear in the

fabric of space

the white hole would catapult you out in

a completely different place and maybe

even time

if we can overcome one technical


the problem is as soon as you enter the

mouth of a wormhole it collapses it's

like trying to get inside of a soap

bubble as soon as you pierce that bubble

it pops so there have been some

scientists who say gee maybe there's a

way we can stop them from disappearing

what do you do if you're at a restaurant

and your table is a little bit wobbly

and your drinks keep spilling well

you've wedged something under it to make

it so it doesn't shake and it's nice and

stable it's possible that something like

that might exist for wormholes the

cosmos is full of my new particles like

electrons and protons when they interact

they project short-lived bursts of


scientists called them virtual particles

and believe these surges and power could

pry open a wormhole it sounds like

science fiction but in Los Angeles a

group of scientists is attacking the


Umar Mohideen is building a device he

hopes could allow humans to enter a


it's exciting to be doing this kind of

research I mean it's very motivating and

there is the opportunity to make new

discoveries you know that's part of the

excitement of doing the research a

component deep inside his machine has

the power to revolutionize space

exploration a microscopic metal ball

boom arm mounts this sphere next to a

metal plate leaving only a minut gap

between them the separation is very

small in this case on the order of a

micron which is about a 50th of the

width of your hair so it's awfully small

separation distance

this tiny gap traps virtual particles

and Umar thinks we can use these bursts

of energy to try and force open a

wormhole this is a frontier that you're

trying to understand physical phenomenon

and properties of nature that are still

under debate that's part of the


Lamar's device only generates minut


but a scaled-up version could work

to pry open a wormhole we'd have to

build a huge metal sphere millions of

miles wide


then build another one right next to it

no further away than a single atom

finally we'd have to drop both spheres

right into the mouth of a black hole

then we could travel to the farthest

corners of the universe

when humanity has been able to expand

the range over which we can travel and

look and see and come to comprehend that

has always led to new knowledge that

we've used to increase the quality of

human life mastering wormholes would

likely continue that process just

because we don't have the technology

today that doesn't mean we're not gonna

have in the future think about it it was

just about a hundred years ago that the

Wright brothers took to the air even if

wormholes don't exist even if wormholes

can't exist the mathematics the science

the physics of figuring them out

theoretically can lead to new

discoveries and things that we can use

things that do exist and it can benefit

humanity it is always worth

investigating things like this it's why

we call it exploration


black holes can devour planets and stars

in the blink of an eye

but now we know they have a more

positive role as well


they build and control galaxies keeping

order in the cosmos

and one day they may propel us to the

distant corners of the universe

far from fearing black holes

maybe we should learn to love them