Will Earth ever get pulled into a black hole?

Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so extreme that nothing, not even light – the fastest thing in the universe – can escape.

But is it likely that planet Earth will ever be pulled into a black hole? And if so, what would happen in this scenario?

What is the probability of the Earth being consumed by a black hole?

the experts we spoke to newsweek said that there is practically zero chance of Earth colliding with a black hole before being swallowed by the Sun in about five billion years.

“For starters, the space is aptly named,” explained Doug Gobyle, a professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Rhode Island. newsweek, “The total average luminous matter density of the universe is about one proton [a particle of light] per cubic meter. This density is very high in the Milky Way and the Solar System, but still almost non-existent.”

“Objects that we might understand as ‘large’ and ‘dense’ are quite rare in the grand scheme of the universe, leaving behind planets, stars, and related stellar remnants including white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes.” Give,” said Gobele.

While there are countless stars in our galaxy alone, random encounters between objects are extremely rare due to the vast space between them, explained Jonathan Zarak, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University. newsweek,

Artist’s illustration of a black hole with surrounding material. Experts said that there is almost zero chance of a black hole ever hitting the Earth.

“Short of an ultra-advanced civilization with unlimited resources and energy that would purposefully ‘launch’ a black hole toward the Solar System, such an encounter is unlikely to be close to zero,” Gobele said.

“Just as we don’t normally worry about stars passing through the Solar System, this can be extended to all objects in the Milky Way,” he said.

“Stars do, from time to time, spin large enough to deflect some comets from the farthest outer regions of the Solar System, called the Oort Cloud, but this is the extent of their gravitational influence on the Solar System and it will likely Same case for any black hole or other compact mass that, incidentally, would go beyond the Solar System.”

Do any ‘nearby’ black holes pose a threat?

According to experts, the closest black holes to our solar system are too far to have any effect on our solar system.

For example, V616 Monocerotis (V616 Mon), which is thought to be one of the closest black holes to our Solar System, is located more than 3,000 light-years away.

“Even if the black hole ate its binary partner, it doesn’t have enough mass to do anything extraordinary except a few bursts of radiation,” Gobele said. “At its distance from Earth, we would only notice it by directly observing the system with powerful observational instruments. The impact on Earth would be zero.”

Black holes fall into two main size classes: stellar and supermassive (although more recent research has shown that an intermediate class is likely as well). The mass of a stellar black hole is many times greater than that of our Sun. On the other hand, the mass of supermassive black holes can range from millions to billions of solar masses.

Sun, Planets And A Black Hole
Artist’s illustration of the Sun, several planets and a black hole in space. Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that nothing can escape.

Stellar-mass black holes, such as V616 Mon, are formed as the remnants of massive stars that die in cataclysmic cosmic explosions known as supernovae. A nearby star that could in theory form a black hole is Betelgeuse, the second brightest star in the constellation Orion.

According to Zrake, Betelgeuse is nearing the end of its life and will likely produce a supernova sometime in the next 10,000 years. But this star is about 500 light years away and if it produced a black hole, there would be no effect on Earth.

How close do we have to get to a black hole to make an impact?

While it would be challenging to miss a supermassive black hole, or even an intermediate-mass black hole, anywhere near the Solar System, a stellar-mass black hole close to the Solar System without us being easily seen. Wandering is within the realm of possibility, Gobele said.

,[But] Even a large stellar-mass black hole, such as 30 solar masses, would have to be close enough to Neptune (about 30 times the Earth-Sun distance) to begin its gravitational effects on Earth, and That’s about the distance of Jupiter (about five times the Earth-Sun distance) to pull on Earth with a gravitational force roughly equal to the gravitational force of the Sun,” he said.

Black holes are known to be omnipotent cosmic vacuum cleaners that consume everything that comes their way, but according to Gobele, the reality is somewhat different.

“Black holes, generally speaking, are terrible at consuming matter,” he said. “The usual litmus test for this is to consider why the universe is not consumed by black holes, the answer to which is that black holes are highly inefficient, under most circumstances, at consuming matter and growing to large sizes. “

What if Earth gets sucked into a black hole?

If a black hole somehow came extremely close to Earth (for example, closer than the Moon’s orbit) and was traveling slowly enough, our planet would be torn apart by the object’s immense gravitational force.

“The atmosphere and oceans will be removed from Earth’s surface, and molten metal will be poured into space from Earth’s mantle,” Zarak said.

This terrestrial debris will go into orbit around the black hole, and vaporize into an ionized gas – that is, a gas consisting of atoms or molecules that have lost or gained electrons. The gas forms a ring of material around the black hole, known as an accretion disk, and much of it will be consumed over a few hours to days, according to Zrake.

“The energy released from the falling gas will drive powerful winds of plasma [one of the four fundamental states of matter consisting of charged particles] in space, and generate high-energy radiation. That light can probably be detected by nearby extra-terrestrial astronomers as a brief flash of hard X-rays.”

But the likelihood of this scenario occurring is astronomically low. Slightly more plausible, but still incredibly unlikely, is a scenario where a black hole came close enough to impact Earth, though not close enough to consume our planet.

The main threat here, at least for life, would be black holes that disturb Earth’s orbit enough to affect climate, or potentially massive amounts of debris in the Solar System (such as asteroids, comets and the Moon). and put it on collision course with our planet, according to Zrake.

“While life on Earth could survive such an event, humanity and almost all multicellular species on Earth almost certainly will not,” Gobele said.

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