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The Question

(Submitted November 13, 1997)

This might sound like a stupid question, but I want to know what the name for the center of a black hole is. My Dad told me it would be a cool name for my rock band, but he couldn't remember what it was. If there are several applicable terms please include them all, as my Dad's memory can't be trusted.

The Answer

At the center of a black hole is a point where the laws of physics break down. This point is called a 'singularity'. These singularities are hidden, or 'clothed' by the black hole, so that the effects of the breakdown cannot be observed by people outside.

However, small black holes are known to decay by the process known as 'Hawking Radiation'. It is currently a matter of debate as to whether the singularity disappears along with the black hole that clothes it, or whether you are left with what is called a 'naked singularity'.

I will not suggest that you call your band 'Naked Singularity', as the term might be misunderstood by your audience and lead to a decline in public morals, which is not part of NASA's charter.

David Palmer
for Ask an Astrophysicist

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