May 30, 2023
The black hole is defined as a “place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out” by NASA. A typical black hole is composed of two areas; the first of these would be the event horizon. Here, nothing escapes due to the exceedingly high gravity. Not even light. The second is named the singularity. In this area, there is a practically infinite density in a space that is infinitely small, which would be a simple point. Not all black holes are the same, of course: take for one, the quasar, which is actually, quite ironically, the brightest object known to exist due to its emissions. But, all have a singularity and an event horizon. Though they have existed, speculatively, since the beginnings of the very universe, it is only in relatively recent times that they have been discovered. Though throughout the ages they had been hinted at by several notable figures-- including Albert Einstein-- the term “black hole” was coined by theoretical physicist John Wheeler in 1967, four years before the first black hole was confirmed to have been found.
With the use of string theory, a new variant of star has been formulated: the topological soliton. This star would act and look exactly as a typical black hole would, including the bending of light around it. But, with further research, it is found that unlike a black hole, the soliton does not simply take light; it also releases it in the area that would be a black hole’s event horizon, albeit in a very distorted manner. Pierre Heidmann, a physicist from John Hopkins researching the matter, states about the behavior of the newly discovered star, "Light is strongly bent, but instead of being absorbed like it would in a black hole, it scatters in funky motions until at one point it comes back to you in a chaotic manner. You don't see a dark spot. You see a lot of blur, which means light is orbiting like crazy around this weird object”.
This is not the first finding of a soliton acting out of the ordinary. Years before, the boson star was discovered to be practically invisible, as it was, as the celestial body’s namesake suggests, made of bosons, a subatomic particle that cannot be seen by the naked eye due to it not being a fermion, or physical particle.
This finding is exciting, even though there has yet to be concrete evidence on its validity as it has been based on mathematical calculation. It proves that there is more to the universe than just what we can see, and shows that even now there is much to be discovered of the space that surrounds us. Not only that, but it demonstrates how quantum ideas can also be used in the real world, being the first to do so. Last but not least, this furthers our understanding on the difficult subject of gravity, and how it really works. As Ibrahima Bah, another researcher who worked with Heidmann on the discovery of the topographical soliton, states, “We hope in the future to be able to genuinely propose new types of ultracompact stars consisting of new kinds of matter from quantum gravity”.
Starr, M. (2023) This string theory ‘Star’ looks and acts exactly like a black hole, ScienceAlert. https://www.sciencealert.com/this-string-theory-star-looks-and-acts-exactly-like-a-black-hole.