What would kill you if you fell into a black hole?

You might not die right away, but you would eventually be pulled apart by the force of gravity.

As you fell in and even afterward, you might not lose consciousness, but the pull of gravity on your feet would be stronger than on your head, and you would be stretched, then torn apart.

The difference in force is called the tidal force and is like that in the ocean, except in more extreme form. The force would be less if it was a big enough black hole; in a small black hole it might kill you before you disappeared beneath the event horizon, the edge of the hole.

But even in a larger black hole, the tidal force always gets you in the end. Once you fall in, you can’t avoid falling toward the center, and the force would kill you before you reached the center. How long it would take depends on how big the black hole is.

If it was big enough so that the tidal force didn’t kill you before you fell in, you might have an hour or several hours before being torn apart. In a small one, such as one that forms when a star collapses, you wouldn’t have much time, perhaps a thousandth of a second.

That would happen with a run-of-the-mill black hole, like those that might be found in the Milky Way Galaxy.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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