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A mathematical model reveals that it is possible to create black holes similar to astrophysical black holes in laboratory experiments1,2. The model predicts that a flowing fluid system can mimic the environment around a black hole.

Black holes are ultra-dense concentrations of matter left behind when a massive star collapses. Its gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from its edge – a boundary called the event horizon.

Physicists Tapas Das, Karan Fernandes and Susovan Maity at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute in Uttar Pradesh, India, report that their model provides insights into the dynamics of event horizons in laboratory experiments. In their model, sound waves spreading through a fluid system separate it into two distinct zones: an external subsonic region and an internal supersonic one.

The sound waves spreading inwards influence the sonic surface that separates the supersonic from the subsonic region. These waves approach and eventually pass through. Similar to cosmic black holes, those waves cannot escape from the supersonic region.

The sonic surface acts like a black hole’s event horizon, with velocity of sound replacing that of light.

The model of black holes is key to testing the properties of strong gravity and Hawking radiation, where the emission of particles from a black hole are difficult to detect through observations, the researchers say.