THOUSANDS of planets ten times the size of the Earth could be orbiting supermassive black holes just like we orbit the sun, study shows
- Japanese astronomers say planets could form in the disk around a black hole
- They predict a super massive black hole could be home to thousands of planets
- Planets orbiting a black hole would be about ten times the mass of the Earth
- Researchers say they would need to form about 10 light-years from a black hole
Thousands of massive rocky planets could be orbiting supermassive black holes in the same way Earth orbits the sun, according to Japanese researchers.
Current theories of planet formation suggest they are formed from fluffy dust pieces in a disk of materials surrounding a young star.
Young stars are not the only objects that possess dust disks – they are also found surrounding supermassive black holes.
Researchers focused on these heavy disks of material and came to the conclusion that planets could form from the fluffy dust contained in the black hole disks.
‘This study could open a new field of astronomy’ with scientists studying the dust rings surrounding a black hole, say experts from Kagoshima University in Japan.
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Young stars are not the only objects that possess dust disks. Researchers focused on heavy disks around the super massive black holes and came to the conclusion that they could lead to planetary formation
A supermassive black hole – such as Sagittarius A* at the centre of the Milky Way – was likely formed through the explosion of a super massive star during the early years of the universe.
Some supermassive black holes have large amounts of matter around them in the form of a heavy, dense disk.
One of these disks can contain as much dust as 100,000 times the mass of the sun, or one billion times the dust mass of a dust disk around a young star.
‘A dust disk around a black hole is so dense that the intense radiation from the central region is blocked and low temperature regions are formed’, said Professor Keiichi Wada, who headed up the research team.
A super massive black hole – such as Sagittarius A* at the centre of the Milky Way – was likely formed through the explosion of a super massive star during the early years of the universe
Researchers applied the theory of how planets are formed around a normal star to the giant dust disks around black hole and found that planets could be formed in the low temperature zones over several hundred million years.
‘Our calculations show that tens of thousands of planets with 10 times the mass of the Earth could be formed around 10 light-years from a black hole,’ says Eiichiro Kokubo, a professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
‘Around black holes there might exist planetary systems of astonishing scale.’
Researchers applied the theory of how planets are formed around a normal star to the giant dust disks around black hole and found that planets could be formed in the low temperature zones over several hundred million years
Researchers said this is all theory at the moment as there is no way to detect planetary systems around a black hole and no way to know whether planets have formed.
The idea of planets orbiting a black hole isn’t new. In the 2014 movie Interstellar Matthew McConaughey’s character flies through a worm hole near Saturn in search of a new home for humans to escape to as the Earth is becoming uninhabitable.
He finds himself near ‘Gargantuan’ a supermassive black hole and examines a number of planets orbiting the dead star that could be habitable for human life.
The idea of planets orbiting a black hole isn’t new. In the 2014 movie Interstellar Matthew McConaughey’s character flies through a worm hole near Saturn in search of a new home for humans to escape to as the Earth is becoming uninhabitable
The film focuses heavily on the time dilation effects of a black hole.
When McConaughey returns to our solar system his daughter, who was ten when he left was an old woman with her own family.
However, researchers don’t believe that a planet orbiting a black hole would suffer from time dilation effects as they would likely be more than 10 light-years away from the stellar object.
The study has been published in the Astrophysical Journal.
WHAT’S INSIDE A BLACK HOLE?
Black holes are strange objects in the universe that get their name from the fact that nothing can escape their gravity, not even light.
If you venture too close and cross the so-called event horizon, the point from which no light can escape, you will also be trapped or destroyed.
For small black holes, you would never survive such a close approach anyway.
The tidal forces close to the event horizon are enough to stretch any matter until it’s just a string of atoms, in a process physicists call ‘spaghettification’.
But for large black holes, like the supermassive objects at the cores of galaxies like the Milky Way, which weigh tens of millions if not billions of times the mass of a star, crossing the event horizon would be uneventful.
Because it should be possible to survive the transition from our world to the black hole world, physicists and mathematicians have long wondered what that world would look like.
They have turned to Einstein’s equations of general relativity to predict the world inside a black hole.
These equations work well until an observer reaches the centre or singularity, where, in theoretical calculations, the curvature of space-time becomes infinite.