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A black hole, one of the most bizarre predictions of Einstein's theory of relativity, can result from the collapse of a star so as to create a gravitational field so strong that light is unable to ...escape from its surface. This final programme of the course explains what astronomers and theoretical physicists currently understand of black holes and their implications for our universe.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: S354, Understanding space and time
Item code: S354; 16
First transmission date: 10-10-1979
Published: 1979
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:31
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Producers: Nick Brenton; James Burge
Contributors: George Abell; Alan Cooper
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Black holes explained; Cygnus X-1; Laplace; Neutron; Relativity; Stars; Stellar evolution; Steven Hawking; White dwarfs; X-ray
Footage description: Shots of the Crab Nebula. Shots of a model of the solar system. A simulated spaceship with Alan Cooper at the controls appears. Commentary by George Abell introduces the programme. Alan Cooper, at the controls of the spaceship, explains what astronomers mean by a 'compact body'. Animated diagrams of light being bent by the sun help to illustrate his points. Cooper constructs a Thorne Diagram which generalises the event horizon for a body of any mass. He plots on the diagram the event horizons for the earth, the sun, globular clusters, etc. Cooper goes on to discuss the experimental evidence which demonstrates the existence of compact bodies like white dwarfs and neutron stars. Animated diagrams, Thorne Diagrams, shots of radio telescopes, and a shot of the Crab Nebula while he talks. Cooper, using models and animations, explains what sort of evidence would suggest the presence of a black hole. He points out that binary systems are ideal candidates for examination. George Abell lists the companion of the star Cygnus X-1 as the best candidate for a black hole known at present. Alan Cooper, in his simulated spaceship, takes an imaginary trip into the Cygnus X-1 black hole. The trip demonstrates several of the distortions of space-time which would be encountered in these extreme conditions. Commentary is begun by Cooper and continued by George Abell. Shots of the dishes of the Cambridge Radio Astonomy Observatory, of a VDU showing readings from the telescope, and a photo of a quasar. Commentary by George Abell describes the properties of quasars and explains why they are thought to contain giant black holes. Abell goes on to explain how the black hole power sources of quasars may have turned themselves off as quasars evolved into galaxies such as our own. Alan Cooper discusses the work of the physicist Steven Hawking who believes in a link between relativity and quantum mechanics. This concerns very small black holes which may have been created during the first few seconds of the 'big bang' and which would after a time evaporate. Shot of Steven Hawking and an animated diagram illustrate his points. Alan Cooper at the 200 inch Palomar telescope sums up the programme.
Master spool number: DOU3300
Production number: FOUS077X
Videofinder number: 2048
Available to public: no