What would happen if you fell down a black hole?

Here’s what it’s like to visit one of the strangest places in the universe


An artist’s impression of a black hole. Image credit: Tobias Roetsch

Black holes are some of the most feared objects in the universe and falling into one might seem like the stuff of nightmares, but the reality might be less traumatising than you imagine.

If you came too close to a small black hole you would be torn apart before you even reached the event horizon; tidal forces would stretch your body like spaghetti. However, if you circled a bigger black hole, like the one at the centre of the Milky Way (Sagittarius A*), you’d be able to get right into the action. With the most massive black holes, the tidal forces outside of the event horizon are lessened, so you would be able to enter unharmed. However, as you cross over, the laws of physics go a bit wrong.

To an outside observer you would appear to stretch as you approached it, and when you finally reached the edge you would stop, getting redder and dimmer. But from your point of view, you’d still be falling.

Inside the black hole, time dilates. You would be on a one-way trip towards the centre, a point known as the singularity, but it would take a while to get there. Before you arrived there, you might have time to take in the sights – looking at the things that had fallen in before you, and the things coming in behind.

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