Black holes from prediction to detection

On 14 September 2015, the LIGO/VIRGO instruments detected the first statistically significant signal of a gravitational wave passing through Earth, one hundred years after the publication of the theory of General Relativity. The signal was identified as originating from the merger of two stellar black holes orbiting each other. Black holes, since their theoretical conception from Albert Einstein and Karl Schwarzschild, have played an integral role both in theoretical physics and later on in astronomy and astrophysics. 

Currently, black holes are thought to be important, both as probes of the most extreme regime of gravity, but also as regulators of their environments both on stellar and galactic scales. Nature journals have published key results relating to black holes, including some of the most highly cited papers in astronomy. This collection showcases the presence of black holes in scientific research over the last 50 years and the evolution of our understanding of black holes in astronomy and astrophysics. 

In the Research tab, you will find a collection of some of the most important discoveries relating to black holes that were published in Nature journals. From the association of black holes to the most luminous galaxies in the Universe, to Hawking radiation, and quantum black holes, this tab offers a slice of some of the most exciting research in astronomy.

In the News, Views and Comments tab, you will find the reaction of the community to what today is considered rather commonplace knowledge. What would happen if one lowers a rope with a mass tied to its end inside a black hole? Why is the detection of gravitational waves such an important breakthrough? Click through to find more.

In the Theory and Predictions tab, you will find papers that have dealt with black holes on a theoretical level, making predictions about both the observational signatures of black holes and the properties of the black holes themselves. Despite their blackness, black holes power some of the most luminous objects in our Universe through the accretion of matter and the gravitational release of energy.

Black holes come in all sizes (and potentially shapes). In the Quantum to stellar black holes tab, we take a closer look at black holes with small masses (up to a few hundred or thousand solar masses). These can be found scattered around galaxies, the end product of stellar evolution, and even presumably in the primordial Universe, products of quantum fluctuations and extremely high-energy processes.

Milky Way and beyond takes a step back and looks at the most massive black holes we currently know. From the black hole hiding at the centre of our very own galaxy to the giant black holes found in other galaxies in our local Universe and beyond. In this tab, you will find papers about stars being destroyed by black holes, the evidence for a black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, the missing intermediate-mass black holes and even systems of binary supermassive black holes whose gravitational wave signature will eventually be observed by LISA.

News, Views and Comments