Where is all the matter “sucked” into a black hole thought to go? — KH, St. Johns, Newfoundland
From our perspective outside a black hole, the matter never quite passes through the black hole’s event horizon—the surface from which not even light can escape. That’s because time slows down near the event horizon and it takes an infinite amount of our time for the matter to pass through the event horizon. But from the perspective of the matter falling through the event horizon, the passage is uneventful—the matter experiences no sudden changes as it passes through that surface of no return. Instead, the matter continues to accelerate toward the singularity at the center of the black hole—a point of infinite density and infinitely small size. Its approach to the singularity completely destroys the matter’s structure. The gravitational tidal forces caused by the differences in gravity at different locations in space tear the matter apart so that it contributes only mass, charge, momentum, and angular momentum to the singularity. The black hole is usual identified with the event horizon rather than the singularity contained inside it. Passage through that event horizon erases any memory of the structure of the matter, leaving only its mass, charge, momentum, and angular momentum observable in the properties of the black hole.