Could there be a black hole lurking at the edge of the solar system?

black holes It has captured our imaginations for years: the idea of ​​a giant semi-invisible vacuum cleaner drifting through space, ready devouring the earth In one dose, it is enough to keep anyone awake at night.

But now, despite their mysterious past, we understand more about black holes and how they work than ever before.

black holes very formidable Objects, with a gravitational force so strong that not even light can escape from them. It is believed to be incredibly common, spread around the galaxyperhaps closer than we think.

black holes
Illustration of a black hole. According to black hole expert Becky Smithhurst, there may be one lurking in the outskirts of our solar system.
iStock/Getty Images Plus

“They’re just like prisons for light matter and everything,” said astrophysicist and science reporter Dr. Becky Smithhurst. NEWSWEEK.

Some black holes are believed to have existed since the birth of the universe itself, and are referred to as Primordial black holeswhile others are essentially the corpses of ancient stars, collapsed on themselves after dying in a massive explosion known as Supernova.

“In the same way that there are a lot of stars hanging around the galaxy, there are a lot of black holes hanging around the galaxy as well,” Smithhurst said.

Black holes behave in the same way as any other massive object: if a black hole with the same mass as the Sun replaced it spontaneously, the Earth’s orbit would not change at all.

According to Smithhurst, there may be roaming black holes around the universe, with one lurking even in the outskirts of our solar system.

“Lots of stars formed in clusters,” she said. “With a black hole, what can happen, either from a supernova or interacting with other stars after that, is that you can get a ‘slingshot’ from those clusters by gravity, basically, the same way we use a gravitational slingshot around planets [for spacecraft]. “

This would then cause an interstellar black hole to wander through space.

“There can also be a black hole in edge of the solar system‘ said Smithhurst. Like this idea that there’s another planet out there that we haven’t yet discovered, that could sponsor some of the objects out there in these strange orbits that we’ve seen, and he-she hasn’t found.”

This is how Neptune was discovered: the orbit of Uranus was irregular, which led scientists to check whether there was another mass in the same region of the solar system. They finally found Neptune.

“[Some people] Put forward the hypothesis that the reason for not finding it [the planet] It could be because a black hole, 10 times the mass of the Earth or something like that, could be classified as one of those primordial black holes, which could be hanging on the edge of the solar system Cause a bit of a messSmithhurst said.

Despite their name, black holes can be detected if you know where to look.

“Maybe there’s a big halo of matter around it that collects, and there could be some antimatter in there,” Smithhurst said.

“And if he encounters that, it will create a huge explosion of energy with annihilation, so we can see some Gamma ray flashes From this direction wherever it is.

“So it’s interesting to think that the solar system could have its own little black holes.”

However, this will not be as scary as it seems. “It’s not just vacuum cleaners in space,” says Smithhurst. “They’re more like couch cushions, I would say. They just sit there in your living room, not pulling anything towards them. But if you lose something in the side, it’s gone for good.”

It is believed that there are supermassive black holes at the center of each galaxy: Sagittarius A*the example in the Milky Way, the spiral galaxy containing the Sun, was first imaged in May.

“We’re really orbiting a black hole,” Smithhurst said. “The sun revolves around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. You don’t have to worry about the solar system falling into the black hole at the center.

“But what’s really exciting is that a galaxy of stars has enough of what’s called ‘self-gravity’ to stick together and still orbit around the center, even if the black hole doesn’t exist.”

“That’s why all the gas in the galaxy didn’t just spiral into the black hole. Because there are other things that are more gravitationally attracted to it, including itself,” Smithhurst said.

Dr. Becky Smithhurst is the author of A Brief History of Black Holes: And Why Almost Everything You Know About It Is Wrong.

Leave a Comment