What is Hawking radiation?

According to quantum physics, throughout the universe there are endless pairs of subatomic particles that appear from nothingness and almost immediately disappear again. One of these has a negative mass and the other positive, which is why they instantly annihilate each other, but their existence for any determinable length of time is theoretically impossible.

However, Professor Stephen Hawking proposed that around a black hole something rather unusual happens. As in open space these two subatomic particles form, however they do not destroy each other. Instead, the negative mass particle is pulled into the black hole, while the positive one is fired out.

The latter exits in the form of measurable radiation, which is constantly ejected. This was coined ‘Hawking radiation’, and explains why black holes appear to glow extremely brightly as opposed to being totally dark. Interestingly, the negative-mass particles slowly eat away at the mass inside the black hole. Eventually they consume all of the mass within the entity, causing it to collapse and subsequently explode. While this occurrence has never actually been observed, it’s now widely believed to be the eventual fate of almost all black holes.


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