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Q& A: Black Holes

Q:
How does a black hole consume matter? What happens to the matter it consumes?

A:
Matter is consumed by a black hole when the gravitational force of the black hole pulls it beyond the event horizon, from which the matter cannot escape because the gravity is too strong. The ultimate fate of the matter is unknown since nothing, not even light, can escape from inside the event horizon and give us information about what happened to the material. The theory indicates that it must be crushed to an extremely high density -- to a point at which the theory no longer applies! However, since nothing can escape from a black hole, all energy and mass of the matter is captured inside of the black hole. According to the theory, this energy and mass is not destroyed, though it may change forms. Since energy is equivalent to mass in Einstein's theory of relativity, the mass of the black hole increases slightly.

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