Hypothetical bridges connecting distant regions of space (and time) could more or less resemble various black holes, meaning it’s possible these mythical beasts of physics have been seen before.
Fortunately though, if a new model proposed by a small team of physicists at Sofia University in Bulgaria is accurate, there might still be a way to tell them apart.
Play around with Einstein’s theory of general relativity long enough, it’s possible to show how the space-time background of the Universe can form not only deep gravitational pits where nothing escapes, but also impossible-to-climb mountain peaks.
Unlike their dark cousins, these glowing hills would dodge anything that approached, potentially spouting streams of particles and radiation that had no hope of returning.
Aside from the distinct possibility that the Big Bang resembles one of these “white holes”, nothing like this has ever been observed. Nonetheless, they remain an interesting concept for exploring the edges of one of physics’ greatest theories.
In the 1930s, a colleague of Einstein named Nathan Rosen showed that there was nothing to say that the deeply curved spacetime of a black hole could not connect to the steep peaks of a hole. white to form a sort of bridge.
In this corner of physics, our everyday expectations of distance and time go out the window, meaning that such a theoretical link could span vast swaths of the cosmos.
Under the right circumstances, it might even be possible for matter to straddle this cosmic tube and come out the other end with its information more or less intact.
So to figure out what that black hole might look like with an asshole for observatories like the Event Horizon Telescope, the Sofia University team developed a simplified model of a wormhole’s “throat.” in the form of a ring of magnetized fluid, and made various assumptions about how matter would surround it before being swallowed.
Particles caught in this furious maelstrom would produce powerful electromagnetic fields that would roll and smash in predictable patterns, polarizing any light emitted by the heated material with a clear signature. It was tracing polarized radio waves that gave us the first stunning images of M87* in 2019 and Sagittarius A* earlier this year.
It turns out that the steaming hot lips of a typical wormhole would be hard to distinguish from the polarized light emitted by the swirling disk of chaos surrounding a black hole.
By this logic, M87* could very well be a wormhole. In fact, wormholes could be lurking at the end of black holes everywhere, and we would have no easy way of knowing.
That’s not to say there’s no way to know at all.
If we were to be lucky and stitch together an image of a candidate wormhole viewed indirectly through a decent gravitational lens, the subtle properties that distinguish wormholes from black holes might well become apparent.
This would require a mass ideally placed between us and the wormhole to distort its light enough to amplify the small differences, of course, but it would at least give us a way to confidently spot which dark spots of void have a rear exit.
There is another way, one that also requires a fair amount of fortune. If we were to spot a wormhole at the perfect angle, light streaming through its gaping entrance to us would see its signature further enhanced, giving us a clearer indication of a gateway through the stars and beyond.
Further modeling could reveal other characteristics of light waves that help clear wormholes from the night sky without the need for lenses or perfect angles, a possibility researchers are now turning their attention to.
Placing additional constraints on wormhole physics could reveal new avenues for exploring not only general relativity, but also the physics that describes the behavior of waves and particles.
Beyond that, the lessons learned from such predictions could reveal where general relativity breaks down, opening up some holes of its own for making bold new discoveries that could give us a whole new way to see the cosmos.
This research was published in Physical examination D.
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