What do Hawking radiation and virtual particles have to do with black holes?

   British physicist and mathematician Stephen William Hawking believes that a black hole is the final stage of a massive star's life, but he proposes that they then continue to evolve by evaporating and giving off radiation. Hawking's theory is based on the concept of virtual particles. Virtual particles cannot themselves be detected but their presence is known by their effect on other objects. One half of these particles gets sucked into a black hole while the other half—created by the black hole—evaporates, or radiates outward. Through this process, the black hole loses mass. The smaller the black hole, the more quickly this occurs. Eventually the black hole completely evaporates away. In a black hole small enough, complete evaporation causes a violent explo­sion that gives off gamma radiation. Hawking is convinced that this energy, also known as Hawking radiation, will one day be detected and validate his theory.