General Astronomy/Spaghettification

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An illustration of the effect that extreme gravitational forces would have on an astronaut as he approaches the black hole event horizon.

Spaghettification refers to the effect of extreme gravitational pressure on any particle or body of matter, in particular when exposed to the extreme forces of the black hole. Essentially, when a particle draws too close to the source of the powerful gravitational field, it is stretched into long thin shapes, like pasta.

The term was coined by Stephen Hawking in his book, A Brief History of Time, where he likened this process to spaghetti. Much like other aspects of the black hole theory and model, this effect of drawing too close to a black hole remains untested, unobserved and unproven, and relates to areas of physics that remain largely unexplored, namely the concept of a force so powerful that no matter what components make up a piece of matter, it will be stretched further than is deemed by many to be within the realms of physical plausibility.

Many have speculated upon why it is, scientifically speaking, that spaghettification occurs when an object draws close to a black hole, but a generally accepted theory has been proposed. To understand this, one must consider the sheer strength of an object with such a high gravitational pull. One must also consider Newtonian gravitational theory, which states that:

  1. If you increase the mass of an object within a gravitational field, the gravitational pull in question will increase in power by the same amount.
  2. These factors become exponentially higher as the object draws closer to the source of the gravitational strength.

Bearing that in mind, one now must consider that:

  1. Black holes have extremely high masses, often many times that of the sun and other stars
  2. This mass is concentrated in a very small radius.
  3. Because of these factors, the gravitational force near a black hole is enormous...
  4. And all the above factors thereby contribute to the largeness of the gradient of the gravitational field across the object within the field as it draws closer and closer to the source.

Effects of this on the article in question are extreme. Spaghettification tears at the matter's very atomic structures, elongating them and stretching them until they are atomically and cellularly unrecognisable.

Spaghettification is also largely based on the positioning of the object, and the trajectory at which it approaches the source of the gravitational power. These factors cause variations on the way the gravity acts on the incoming matter, and spaghettification is caused based by the differences in the forces fronting the object in question.