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50 Years Ago

“Black holes” in space

Excerpt from the January 18, 1964 issue of SCIENCE NEWS LETTER

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Space may be peppered with “black holes.” This was suggested at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Cleveland by astronomers and physicists who are experts on what are called degenerate stars…. Degenerate stars are made of densely packed electrons and nuclei, or cores of atoms…. Because a degenerate star is so dense, its gravitational field is very strong.

According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, as mass is added to a degenerate star a sudden collapse will take place and the intense gravitational field of the star will close in on itself. Such a star then forms a “black hole” in the universe.

UPDATE  

Science News Letter was the first publication to use the term “black hole” in print, beating a story in Life magazine by a week with this news story by reporter Ann Ewing. Physicist John Wheeler has often been credited with coining the term in 1967, but actually no one knows who was first to use it, and Ewing’s report did not specify who used the phrase at the 1964 meeting. 

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