Things you didn’t know about white holes


Scientists are constantly investigating the workings of our universe – and one of the concepts from the last few decades of research that has most captured the public imagination is that of the black hole. Entities so dense that they trap even light within their gravitational fields, black holes are intensely mysterious phenomena that are still not fully understood today. However, black holes have an even more mysterious counterpart, that scientists are not even sure truly exist – white holes. A white hole is commonly pictured to be the inverse of a black hole, but their existence is nearly impossible to determine, and their characteristics largely unknown. As such, they are perhaps the greatest mystery in contemporary astrophysics.

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If a black hole is an object so dense that it takes everything into it and nothing can escape, then a white hole is the opposite – something which nothing can ever enter. Black holes attract matter to them, until they reach the event horizon – the area of the black hole where gravity is so strong that nothing can escape – and are trapped forever. As an object with mass, white holes should and would attract matter toward them, but any object approaching a white hole would be incapable of reaching its event horizon, accelerating infinitely but never reaching the white hole. Instead, white holes have been theorized to be launching matter away from them, and refusing to let anything enter their event horizon. White holes are thought to comprise of a single pulse in which it flings everything contained within it outward, in an incredible discharge of energy and matter.

Is it real?

One of the most difficult things about conceptualizing white holes is that it’s hard to imagine how one would exist in reality. In theoretical equations, the existence of a white hole can be suggested to account for some of the behavior of black holes. However, when it comes to reality, the ideas behind a white hole become much more tenuous. For instance, it’s suggested that a white hole is the literal reverse of a black hole, forming when a black hole runs out of energy and reaches the end of its lifespan. However, a white hole would eject the matter that a black hole took in, reconstituting it and reversing the deconstruction it had undergone. This would contradict the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy – the breakdown of energy and order – of a closed system – which the universe is – cannot decrease, and natural processes cannot be reversed. White holes are rife with contradictions to what are seen as the basic laws of our universe – which means either we’re missing something very big, or they can’t truly exist in physical reality.

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A possible sighting

However, devotees of the white hole and how cool it seems as an idea need not despair – all hope is not lost. On June 14, 2006, scientists recorded a gamma-ray burst of surprising length and power – one that was also absent of the phenomena that were expected to accompany it. Gamma-ray bursts are caused by a supernova – the moment when a star reaches the end of its lifespan, exploding and collapsing into a black hole. As such, the telltale signs would have been expected to accompany the burst – labeled GRB 060614 – but they never did. As such, scientists were presented with a massive outpouring of energy with no discernible cause. Although the cause of the burst is not yet definitely known, it has been suggested that it might have been the product of a white hole. This means that, despite the sheer contradiction that their existence would entail, white holes might yet prove to be a very real part of our universe.