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May 2, 2019

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a piece of spaghetti, just fall into a black hole. Its gravity will turn you into spaghetti in moments.

That “spaghettification” is the result of gravitational tides — just like the ones that create ocean tides here on Earth.

Ocean tides are caused mainly by the pull of the Moon’s gravity. That pull is slightly stronger on the side of Earth that faces the Moon than on the side that’s away from the Moon. The difference tugs on the ocean water, creating “bulges” that trail the Moon across the sky.

Anyone falling into a black hole would experience that same effect. If you fell feet first, your feet would feel a stronger gravitational pull than your head. For a black hole a few times the mass of the Sun, that effect would be uncomfortable at a distance of a few thousand miles. By a few hundred miles it would be deadly. The black hole’s gravity would stretch you from head to toe, while squeezing you from side to side. In essence, you’d be turned into a long strand of spaghetti.

But not for long. The strand would be pulled apart, forming more strands that would be stretched even more. In a fraction of a second, the black hole’s gravity would then pull the strands apart atom by atom. The atoms would plunge to the center of the black hole, where they’d be crushed out of existence — one strand of spaghetti at a time.

We’ll have more about black holes tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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