Black hole evaporation: theoretical study proves Stephen Hawking is partially right

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Scheme of the mechanism of gravitational particle production presented in a Schwarzschild spacetime. The rate of particle production events is highest at small distances, while the probability of escape (represented by the growing (white) vanishing cone) is highest at large distances. Credit: arXiv (2023). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2305.18521

New theoretical research by Radboud University’s Michael Wondrak, Walter van Suijlekom and Heino Falcke has shown that Stephen Hawking was right about black holes, though not completely. Because of Hawking radiation, black holes will eventually evaporate, but the event horizon isn’t as crucial as previously thought. Gravity and the curvature of spacetime also cause this radiation. This means that all large objects in the universe, such as the remnants of stars, will eventually evaporate.

Using a clever combination of quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity, Stephen Hawking argued that the spontaneous creation and annihilation of particle pairs must occur near the event horizon (the point beyond which there is no escape by the gravitational force of a black hole).

A particle and its antiparticle are created by the quantum field very briefly, after which they immediately annihilate. But sometimes one particle falls into the black hole, and then another particle can escape – Hawking radiation. According to Hawking, this would eventually result in black holes evaporating.

In this new study, researchers at Radboud University have revisited this process and investigated whether the presence of an event horizon is really crucial. They combined techniques from physics, astronomy and mathematics to examine what happens if such pairs of particles are created around black holes. The study showed that new particles can also be created well beyond this horizon. Michael Wondrak states: “We demonstrate that, in addition to the well-known Hawking radiation, there is also a new form of radiation.”

Everything evaporates

Van Suijlekom says: “We show that far beyond a black hole the curvature of spacetime plays an important role in the creation of the radiation. The particles are already separated there by the tidal forces of the gravitational field.” While it was previously thought that no radiation was possible without an event horizon, this study shows that this horizon is unnecessary.

Falcke says: “This means that even objects without an event horizon, such as the remnants of dead stars and other large objects in the universe, have this kind of radiation. And, after a very long period, this would lead to all that è the universe eventually evaporates, just like black holes. This changes not only our understanding of Hawking radiation, but also our view of the universe and its future.”

The study was accepted for publication in Physical Review Lettersand meanwhile you can read a version of the newspaper on the arXiv prepress server.

More information:
Michael F. Wondrak et al, Gravitational Pair Production and Evaporation of Black Holes, arXiv (2023). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2305.18521

About the magazine:
Physical Review Letters


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