Is there any limitation to what a black hole can "suck" in? (Intermediate)

hi i am a student in high school. is there any limitation to what a black hole can suck in material?

A black hole can only accrete material ("suck it in" in your words) if it is able to pass the event horizon. Matter that is in orbit about a black hole needs to lose angular momentum before it can fall in, otherwise it just continues to orbit the black hole. In the real universe, black holes which are accreting matter have what are called accretion disks around them. The matter in these disks slowly spirals in to the black hole, and it becomes very hot as it does so we can see the disks glow (usually in X-rays).

The common conception of a black hole being like a vacuum cleaner "sucking" in any matter that comes anywhere near it is therefore not exactly true. This article on what would happen if the Sun suddenly changed into a black hole (which is not likely to happen) might help you to understand this better.

This page was last updated June 27, 2015.

About the Author

Karen Masters

Karen Masters

Karen was a graduate student at Cornell from 2000-2005. She went on to work as a researcher in galaxy redshift surveys at Harvard University, and is now on the Faculty at the University of Portsmouth back in her home country of the UK. Her research lately has focused on using the morphology of galaxies to give clues to their formation and evolution. She is the Project Scientist for the Galaxy Zoo project.

Twitter:  @KarenLMasters

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