As signature subhead reverse@2x
Black holes
Black holes
Half size mrp blackholes 2x

Reality 1:

Black holes do not suck up nearby material. If the Sun were magically converted into a black hole, Earth's orbit would not change. Material generally falls into a black hole when it collides with other material orbiting the black hole. The collision alters the material's orbit. Instead of orbiting a comfortable distance from the black hole, the material is now orbiting too close to the black hole. Then the black hole's enormous gravity traps the material in a one-way spiral to oblivion.


Reality 2:

The light produced or reflected by objects makes them visible. Since no light can escape from a black hole, we can't see it. Instead, we observe black holes indirectly by their effects on material around them.


Reality 3:

In science fiction shows, people sometimes travel through wormholes. Many students think black holes are wormholes and therefore lead to other places. Wormholes are an intriguing possibility, but have not been shown to exist.


"Myths vs. realities: Black holes" contains common misconceptions about black holes. The misconception is presented as the “myth” and an explanation of the true concept is the “reality.” Teachers should be aware of the misconceptions students harbor because they impede students' ability to see the “big picture” in the various sciences; hamper students' ability to apply science principles meaningfully to everyday life; and diminish students' ability to appreciate the links among science concepts and generalizations.

Printer-friendly web page
Adaptable, at teacher's discretion
How to use in the classroom

This resource aids teachers in identifying and remedying student misconceptions about black holes. The best way to learn how students think is to ask them. Below are two strategies that can be employed to identify your students' misconceptions concerning black holes. The first is an individual writing activity that allows students to think independently. The other is a group activity that allows students to share their ideas verbally.

An individual writing activity. To prepare for a study of black holes, explain that you are interested in finding out what your students already know about this topic before you start. Ask students to write down what they know about black holes and why they know it. For example, they may say black holes are similar to worm holes because they saw it on a science fiction show. Collect their papers and compile a list of misconceptions the students display in their writing.

The next day, start your unit by explaining that it is common for people — both children and adults to have misconceptions about their world. Explain that you have a list of misconceptions that you would like to discuss with the class. You can read the misconceptions that appear on Myths vs. realities as well as the ones compiled from the students' papers. Ask the students to comment on the misconceptions and discuss the reality of the situation. If your students have misconceptions about black holes that we haven't included on our list, you can send them to us through the Contact us section of this web site, and we'll add them to our list. You may want to make special mention of any new misconceptions the students revealed, and let them know you'll submit them to us for addition to our list.

A group activity. Begin your study of black holes by explaining to students that sometimes the ideas they have about this topic may not be entirely true, and that you are going to try to identify these ideas. Explain that some of these ideas are very hard to remove, and that even their parents may have some of these misconceptions Tell the students that you will read a statement (either a myth or a reality) and they must decide whether it is true or false. Ask them to explain their decision in writing.

Once students have written their responses, discuss their thoughts and the accuracy of the statement. Be sure to establish some ground rules concerning student responses to the thoughts of their peers. Remind them that almost anyone can hold these misconceptions, but they need to be identified and removed before true learning can begin. Ask students if they have any other misconceptions that are not covered in the activity, so you can submit them to us for addition to our list through the Contact us section of this web site. It might help students feel more invested in the activity.

Related materials

Amazing Space resources by topic: Black holes