Predictable Barriers Precluding Any Consideration of Transversable Black Holes Through Outer Space

#1 of The Three Part Series : Black Holes Through Outer Space


Marshall Barnes
United States of America


In this paper I will answer, in detail, issues first raised by the question that was asked of Mark Polansky of the Endeavor Space Shuttle crew in 2009 by "Cameron", a young British lad via Youtube - "What would happen if you were to fly into a black hole?". This idea has been the feature of a number of sci fi stories as well as scientific speculation. In doing so, I will also revisit the speculations of Penrose diagrams, pointing toward new revelations concerning the interior behavior of black holes, which will be explored further in a third paper in this series of three, Black Holes Through Outer Space.

July 21, 2009, NASA released a series of Youtube videos that featured people asking questions of the STS-127 Space Shuttle Commander Mark Polansky. One in particular involved the idea of what would happen if you flew into a black hole, asked by a young boy from England who identified himself only as "Cameron". The question was not answered by Polansky, but instead by Dave Wolf, with a response that startled me.

"We've been thinking about that a lot, Cameron. The truth is, nobody knows for sure..."

Is it possible to fly into a black hole? Are black holes gate ways to other universes? Is there anything new to be discovered about black holes that doesn't require at least flying out to one, to observe it directly? All interesting questions that request, if not demand, answers - so I will accommodate them, and Cameron as well.

Black holes were first found to be the theoretical result of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which deals with the nature of gravity[1]. This theory predicts that under certain circumstances, a star can collapse in on itself and become so compact, due to gravitational forces, and yet so massive, that it punches a hole in the fabric of spacetime and becomes what scientist John Archibald Wheeler coined a "black hole" [2]. However, the French mathematician LaPlace speculated about an object that would be so compact that to escape it would require a velocity exceeding that of the speed of light [3]. In 1915, it was Karl Schwarzschild who discovered the gravitational field for the spherical and point mass which became known as the Schwarzschild radius. It is now referred to as the event horizon for a non-rotating black hole[4].

For many years black holes were only thought to be theoretical, in other words, most scientists did not believe that there were actually any in existence. Even Schwarzschild, and Einstein himself, thought that they couldn't exist. Meanwhile, physicists were making more and more calculations and discoveries, using the General Theory of Relativity to predict the behavior of these theoretical objects, if they were to exist. One key area involved the observations of the surrounding space of a black hole from the view point of an outside observer and then eventually, one falling inside. It was David Finkelstein, in 1958, who introduced the idea of the event horizon for the non-rotating black hole, with his Eddington-Finkelstien coordinates that showed that the event horizon was a membrane that allowed penetration in one direction, only - in [5]. It is during this time the first serious discussions were made concerning the idea of a person falling into a black hole. Done for the purposes of calculating the behavior of time, light and space inside these highly theoretical objects, the concept, nonetheless, would persist in the lexicon of black hole iconography.

Adding to this iconography, there was the image resulting from the calculations of what the tidal forces created by the extreme gravity surrounding a black hole, would do to objects falling in. The calculations revealed that the difference between the gravity at one end of the object would be astronomically different than that at the end farthest from the black hole. The result would be a stretching of the object that would increase as the object got closer and closer to the black hole. Stephen Hawking coined the phrase spaghettification in his book, A Brief History of Time [6], to describe this effect that would stretch objects out like a noodle. The fact, however, that he used a fictional astronaut as his object for this illustration, continued that idea of a person falling into a black hole, as if there were no other conditions to take into consideration.

Eventually, astronomers discovered extremely bright objects in space that they realized were putting out tremendous amounts of radiation and X-rays, but were very far away. The distance between these objects and Earth is what made the scientists realize that these objects were extremely powerful for the amount of radiation that they were emitting. They decided to call these objects quasars, which is short for quasi-stellar radio source. It has been determined that the most luminous quasars emit radiation at rates exceeding that of average galaxies, which is around one trillion suns.

Eventually it was discovered that at the center of these quasars are black holes[7], the source of all this radiation and light, which brings us to the first problem about flying into one, the problem that no one cites - the radiation will kill you before you even get close. As I pointed out earlier, the whole notion of someone falling into a black hole had to do with the physics of the hole and theoretical observations. No one was actually considering it as a real possibility, but as an image, it would have staying power. It was that image that would supersede all other considerations concerning black hole physics.


In the NASA Hubble image above, at the very center of that whirling cloud of dust and energy known as an accretion disk, somewhere in the middle of that glowing hot center, is a black hole. Emphasis on my use of the phrase, glowing hot center.

Any doubts about that will be erased by the following news item from Hubble Space Telescope Site:


Host Galaxy Cluster to Largest Known Radio Eruption

Introduction Release Images Fast Facts Related Links A News Nugget Release

Image download page November 2, 2006: This is a new composite image of galaxy cluster MS0735.6+7421, located about 2.6 billion light-years away in the constellation Camelopardalis. The three views of the region were taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in Feb. 2006, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in Nov. 2003, and NRAO's Very Large Array in Oct. 2004. The Hubble image shows dozens of galaxies bound together by gravity. In Jan. 2005, astronomers reported that a supermassive black hole, lurking in the central bright galaxy, generated the most powerful outburst seen in the universe. The VLA radio image shows jets of high energy particles (in red) streaming from the black hole. These jets pushed the X-ray emitting hot gas (shown in blue in the Chandra image) aside to create two giant cavities in the gas. The cavities are evidence for the massive eruption. The X-ray and radio images show the enormous appetite of large black holes and the profound impact they have on their surroundings.(end)

Now, the picture above shows part of this galaxy cluster. It is Galaxy Cluster MS 0735 and it is the source of that largest X-ray burst in the universe because it has a supermassive black hole in its center. Just the gas that is visible in the picture is 50 million degrees and emits X-rays, which means that the jet that came from the black hole was a lot more powerful than that. The tiles on the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the same one carrying Specialist Dave Wolf and his fellow crew members, are rated to withstand heat up to 2,600 degrees. That means that a space craft like the Endeavour wouldn't make it through the gas clouds around the supermassive black hole in MS 0735, let alone begin to fly into the black hole in its center, which of course is the source of even greater heat and radiation.

So anyone attempting to fly into a black hole will be cooked more ways than one. That's the first thing.

The second thing has to do with gravity. That's the part that everyone usually focuses on and it's the part that I first learned about when I began to read about black holes. The gravitational forces of a black hole are so strong that they would destroy any spacecraft attempting to fly in. How do I know this is true and not just a good theory, like STS-127's Specialist Dave Wolf told Cameron? Because of something called observation and analysis. We can observe the behavior of black holes and then analyze what the behavior would mean in any number of situations, and come up with more than just a good theory. Just as I've shown that the tremendous heat and radiation emitted by a black hole would cook you, based upon what we know of the effects of radiation and heat, and the amounts that can be observed originating from the area of a black hole, we can observe the effects of the gravity of a black hole and make determinations based on what effects they would have on a space observational evidence I will use more images and data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The above picture is of a supermassive black hole expelling gas in galaxy NGC 4438, taken by NASA in 2000. The gas bubbles are the result of the tremendous gravitational tidal forces that are sucking in matter at incredible speeds and then sometimes expelling it in the form of gas. Any attempt to fly a spacecraft into something that tears apart matter, and reduces it to gas, is simply impossible. It will tear the incinerated hulk of metal, that was the spaceship, apart before the spaceship wreck can even get close.

Approaching the black hole from above or below the accretion disc, brings with it another set of barriers. Intense magnetic lines of force, like those in the animation below, are erupting from the area from top and bottom of the black hole, and the evidence for those magnetic lines of force are the incredible galactic jets of material that can erupt from those directions. Those galactic jets are so powerful at times that they can escape the gravitational pull of the black hole with such speed that they streak off into the universe like interstellar spotlights.

Magnetic lines of force, coming from the accretion disc, which then help to form the galactic jets, were first observed from the black hole at the center of galaxy M 87 by John Biretta, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. Biretta led the team that conducted the observations. The team's findings were published in an October 1999 issue of the journal Nature [8].

The picture below is from the NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and shows an actual galactic jet (sometimes called an "optical jet" when the jet is observable in the light range, as opposed to being simply X-ray radiation) and is said to be coming from the supermassive black hole at the center of the M 87 galaxy, which is 50 million light years away. Again, something powerful enough to produce such activity is not something that can be flown into


I want to also make note of the fact that there may also be another cause for some of the galactic jets, aside from strictly magnetic lines of force. The fact that not all jets are visible, thus the distinction between the optical kind and the radio source classification, may indicate an alternate causal agent. In item 3, of this series, I will look at inherent properties of black holes that contribute to the potential possibility of this alternative explanation. I am encouraged in this approach by the fact that scientists have identified, and not been able to explain, how a jet from a black hole can intensify in its brightness over time, another indication of their lack of knowledge about the actual production of black hole jets prior to their expulsion. For example, Eric Perlman, of the Florida Institute of Technology, noted that the black hole at the center of galaxy M87 saw an increase in the brightness of one of the knots in a jet, that was hundred fold in the X-ray and optical wavelengths, and was bright enough to out shine the active galactic nuclei more than 200 light years away [9].

The question remains, however, about the possibility of transversable, smaller black holes. Aside from the supermassive type, there are intermediate or medium, and stellar black holes. Medium sized black holes were thought to not exist, but that view has recently changed with the discovery of HLX-1, which lies at the outskirts of the galaxy ESO 243-49, approximately 290 million light-years from Earth. Since it weighs around 5,000 solar masses, it is considered the missing link between supermassive black holes and the stellar mass variety. According to the ESA (European Space Agency), astronomers using ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory spotted the object last year in an announcement from the ESA that was dated July 1. The team was led by Sean Farrell from the Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements[10]. It is upon reading the details of their report that we learn that one of the same, initial barriers, exists to prevent transversability - radiation.

According to the data, HLX-1 stands for "Hyper-Luminous X-ray source 1". What does that mean? It means that it is "very luminous in X-rays". In fact, the report from the ESA states that HLX-1 peaking is "260 million times that of the Sun". No one ever thinks about flying into the Sun, despite the very rocking song by Grand Funk Railroad, Into the Sun, which also actually isn't about that either. So the idea of flying into an object, that is even more than a million times the X-ray output of the Sun, is ludicrous, let alone more than a hundred times that.

Of course micro or mini black holes, which are not thought to be naturally occurring except under certain rare circumstances - and then only exist for the smallest fraction of a second, would be too small to fly a spaceship into. The stellar mass black hole would fit, but the behavior and physical conditions would still exceed those permitting a survivable approach. In fact, according to Associate Professor Glyn George, PhD of Engineering and Applied Sciences Department of the Memorial University of Canada, a black hole of ten thousand solar masses or less (which would be a stellar black hole) has strong enough tidal forces to kill you from thousands of kilometers away. [11]

He states specifically that:

"For example, 5,000 km away from a fifty solar mass black hole, (which is more than 30 Schwarzschild radii away), the difference in the gravitational force over a distance of just two metres is

so that you are being stretched by a force more than twenty times the strength of gravity on the surface of the Earth."

The spaghettification factor again. Surprisingly, he continues on to say that:

"The only way for a human observer to survive tidal forces as far as the event horizon is to choose a supermassive black hole, anything above a million times the mass of our own Sun, for the journey. Such supermassive black holes may reside at the centre of most large galaxies, including our own."

This has been the thinking for some time. That a supermassive black hole would be huge enough so that the concentration of tidal forces could be passable up until some distance from the event horizon. At that point, it was my thinking that a craft could macroscopically quantum tunnel past the event horizon and into the region where pathways to an infinite number of parallel universes would exist. I will follow-up in more detail on this idea in a moment. I want to stress, however, that this was highly theoretical speculation on my part, nearly 20 years ago. However, we have seen from the Hubble photographic data, that supermassive black holes actually are more violent than first believed.

In this Wikipedia article it points out the energy release in the fall toward a compact star (black hole) from its binary partner is so large that the matter heats up to several hundred million degrees and radiates in X-rays. So we're back to that original problem. The radiation will kill you before the gravity does. The NASA video below shows how a stellar mass black hole can suck matter away from its binary star partner and then emit powerful jets of radiation like a supermassive black hole does. No spacecraft is going to be able to fly into that.

As I stated earlier, I used to think that maybe it was possible to do a journey into a black hole - the rotating kind, because it is said to have both an outer and inner event horizon. Such a black hole is known as a Kerr black hole and it was thought that, if one flew past the outer, and avoided the inner event horizon to miss the singularity, you could avoid being crushed by the singularity at the black hole's center and fly on to an array of parallel universes, I first heard of this when I read Fred Alan Wolf's Parallel Universes: The Search for Other Worlds [12]. Below I have an arrangement of charts called Penrose diagrams, or "black hole maps". They show the space-time configuration of various black holes and the pathways, if any, that would lead to parallel universes from inside them.

The Kerr, or electrically charged and/or rotating types of black holes are also said to allow for time travel and travel to reverse time universes, and sometimes antimatter universes. According to his lecture, Penrose Diagrams, Wormholes, Parallel Universes and Time Machines, Shawn Westmoreland, of the department of mathematics at Kansas Sate University, states that "Inside a rotating black hole, the curvature singularity at r=0 actually forms a ring...and it is possible for null lines and time-like worldlines to go inside this ring...Inside the ring is a 'time machine'!...Note as you can see again from the diagram, if you survive the tidal forces, you would probably be fried by hard gamma rays by the time you got there!"[13]

Of course, all this about parallel universes via black holes and travel to them, is all highly theoretical, and ignores the basic and very practical issues that I've outlined here - you can't get in there in the first place, but that's what's interesting oft times about science - the "what ifs" and "maybes". That's why I got into advanced concept research in the first place.

My thinking was that if you could design a propulsion system, that as part of its function would be the capability of producing a macroscopic quantum tunneling field that would imitate the very same processes that electrons and other subatomic particles are known for, then the ship could target the region inside the black hole that would lead to the pathways to parallel universes shown on the Penrose diagrams. The problem of creating the tunneling field aside, there's the entire issue of how to target the appropriate region from outside the hole as well as the fact that the whole affair would be high risk of the highest order. There would be no return from the same hole, because there would be no way to target a location outside the hole once you went in and appeared in a parallel universe - that is if you even survived. So all of this precludes any research from inside the hole, since no information can escape it. We can't even send in a probe and receive data back. The whole scenario is a lost cause, unfortunately, because if we could get information from inside a black hole, it would lead to a revolutionary leap in the understanding of physics and the universe. On that point, Dave Wolf, of the Endeavor, and I agree.

But, you have to balance out the speculative curiosity with good research. You have to find out what is and isn't possible, and the why and how. Then, and only then can you decide if there might be a way to make the what ifs into certainties.

Which brings us of course to the problem with science today. Too many times there isn't enough attention paid to the details of these highly theoretical concepts and, as a result, misconceptions and mistakes are promoted. Because of years of skeptical peer pressure that physicists like Kip Thorne and Lee Smolin have complained about, the tolerance for new ways of thinking and adventurous inquiries has been lacking. The problem has gotten so bad that, to even be able to consider the physics, for potential solutions for advanced concept problems, the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project had to come up with a new way to train engineers and scientists. Called the Horizon Mission Methodology, it "forces paradigm shifts beyond extrapolations of existing technologies by using impossible hypothetical mission goals to solicit new solutions. By setting impossible goals, the common practice of limiting visions to extrapolations of existing solutions is prevented"[14].

But something, I have found, is missing. What's missing, it seems, is the ability to do the balancing act, to be able to look accurately at many of these radical ideas realistically and have the discernment and the analytical skills to comprehend the big picture. Thus we have a report from that Lior Burko, of the University of Utah, has determined that a supermassive black has attributes that would in fact, allow it to be used for travel to other universes [15]. That's right. Despite the very obvious aspects of black holes that I have noted, using excellent information from the Hubble Space Telescope that identifies clearly, barriers precluding any consideration of transversable black holes through outer space, Burko gives us Black holes singularities: a new critical phenomenon which contains the abstract of :

"The singularitiy inside a spherical charged black hole, coupled to a spherical, massless scalar field is studied numerically. The profile of the characteristic scalar field was taken to be a power of advanced time with an exponent α > 0. A critical exponent αcrit exists. For exponents below the critical one (α < αcrit) the singularity is a union of spacelike and null sectors, as is also the case for data with compact support. For exponents greater than the critical one (α > αcrit) an all- encompassing, spacelike singularity evolves, which completely blocks the “tunnel” inside the black hole, preventing the use of the black hole as a portal for hyperspace travel."

That's right. Burko doesn't say that black holes above the critical profile have a space-time geometry that would connect to, or lead to, or possess pathways to other universes or distant areas of this one. He says that it would be a "portal for hyperspace travel" [16].

Now, I admit that he doesn't actually say that in exactly that way. I've simply done the deductive reasoning of reversal of conditions - if x - y = z then z + y = x. But to prove that I'm correct in this interpretation, I present you with Burko's own words, in the last sentence in the second paragraph of the main body of his paper, page 1:

"It leaves open the possibility that extended object could transverse the CH (Cauchy horizon) only mildly affected, and reemerge in another universe (or a distant portion of our universe), in practice using the black hole as a portal for hyperspace travel".

Like I said, if x - y = z then z + y = x. Burko's focus is on the interior of the black hole, and though he says that it would lead to "travel", that "would" indicates the feasibility of getting to the black hole in the first place so that travel through it could even be attempted, a not so minor detail that Burko seems to have overlooked. It's one thing to do a paper that describes the geometry of something, but to say that it can be traveled through - when even entering it is precluded by the exterior attributes of said geometry, is something else altogether.

The result is the continued propagation of an idea that was simply based originally on discussions concerning the observational aspects of the exterior and interior properties of a black hole in theory, which have since gone exaggerated beyond all reason. Although Finkelstein and others talked of the fate of a person who might "fall into a black hole", let me be perfectly clear - a "person" would never be able to "fall into a black hole". They would be incinerated by the heat before spaghettification could even take place. There wouldn't be any corpse left to fall into the black hole, let alone a person. This fact also rules out any possibility of travel into a black hole, by any other means, as the same forces that would prevent a person from falling in are of the sufficient magnitude to render the same fate to any spacecraft of imaginable manufacture. My own theory of macroscopic quantum tunneling, included, since there would be no way to confidently acquire the proper navigational data, and it would be a one way trip anyway. Most probably a suicidal one.

Most remarkably, the reason for all of this nonsense is the very same reason for many other errors that I have caught physicists making, and is behind a major new announcement about wormholes that I have coming out in May - hidden assumptions. In this case, the assumption is that a person can fall, or a craft can fly, into a black hole. Never mind that it was just an exercise in theoretical calculations, originally. Because there was speculation originally, about a person falling into a black hole, the focus became the idea, the image of a person, or craft, going into a black hole. Never mind that no one was really thinking about that realistically. The focus has been on that black hole interior because it is such a region of mystery, a region that refuses to reveal itself openly - the ultimate lure. The intergalactic equivalent of the old 18th century mantra of exploring the "deepest, darkest, Africa"... And so the fascination, and the persistence of the vision of going inside, when all one has to do is take a step back, and a good look around, to see that you can't get in there from...anywhere.

So, despite all the theories and imagination, two of my favorite things to do, the correct answer for Cameron's question to Mark Polansky should have been - "Well, Cameron, you can't fly into a black hole because the radiation is too intense and the gravity will tear you apart..." but instead the answer was a punt - "Well, nobody knows for sure". Conversely, I believe that I have shown that it is possible to know for sure, and in my next two papers in this series, I will use a similar approach to reveal new information concerning black holes and their relationship with temporal mechanics.


1. Geroch, Robert, General Relativity from A to B. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1981.

2. Overbye, John A. Wheeler, Physicist Who Coined the Term 'Black Hole', Is Dead At 96, Science Section, New York Times, April 14, 2008

3. Smith, Professor H.E. (Gene), Gene Smith's Tutorial University of California, San Diego Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences

4. Schwarzschild, Karl Über das Gravitationsfeld eines Massenpunktes nach der Einsteinschen Theorie. Sitzungsber. Preuss. Akad. D. Wiss.: 189–196, 1916, and Schwarzschild, Karl, Über das Gravitationsfeld eines Kugel aus inkompressibler Flüssigkeit nach der Einsteinschen Theorie. Sitzungsber. Preuss. Akad. D. Wiss.: 424–434, 1916.

5. Finkelstein, David, Past-Future Asymmetry of the Gravitational Field of a Point Particle. Phys. Rev. 110: 965–967, 1958

6. Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History of Time Bantam Books, 1988

7. Britt, Robert Roy, Hidden Black Holes Found Behind Gas Veils in Quasars, May 30, 2001

8. Clark, Greg, Radio Images Show the Source of Towering Cosmic Jet, October 26, 1999

9. Perlman, Eric, Galactic Jets, Hubble 2006 Science year in Review, NASA, 2006

10. European Space Agency, XMM-Newton discovers a new class of black holes,
ESA News July 1, 2009

11. George, Glynn, Shad Valley Presentation on Black Holes, Engineering and Applied Sciences Depart, Memorial University, Canada July 25, 2005

12. Wolf, Fred Alan, Parallel Universes: The Search for Other Worlds Touchstone Books, 1990

13. Westmoreland, Shawn, Penrose Diagrams, Wormholes, Parallel Universes and Time Machines lecture presentation Department of Mathematics, Kansas State University, November 20, 2008

14. Millis, Marc G. The Challenge to Create the Space Drive, Technical memorandum for the Interstellar Flight Symposium of the 15th Annual International Space Development Conference sponsored by the National Space Society, New York, NewYork, May 23-24, 1996

15. Britt, Robert Roy, Voyage Into The Vortex: Survival Tips for Black Hole Travelers, Science Astronomy, April 4, 2003

16. Burko, Lior, Black holes singularities: a new critical phenomenon, Physical Review Letters 90, 121101, 2003