Will the Earth ever succeed in a black hole?

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

But is there a possibility that the planet will one day be pulled into a black hole? And if so, what would happen in this scenario?

What are the chances that a black hole will devour the Earth?

The experts who spoke to NEWSWEEK He said there is almost no chance of Earth colliding with a Black hole before the sun swallows them up in about five billion years.

“For starters, space is aptly named,” said Doug Jubilee, a professor in the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Physics. NEWSWEEK. “The average density of luminous matter in the universe is about one proton per cubic meter. In the galaxy and the solar system, this density is noticeably higher, but it is still almost non-existent.”

“The objects that we might consider ‘large’ and ‘dense’ to be somewhat rare in the grand scheme of the universe, these are planets, stars, and associated stellar remnants that leave behind stars including white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.”

While there are countless stars in our galaxy alone, random encounters between them are extremely rare due to the sheer space between objects, said Jonathan Zrich, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University, NEWSWEEK.

Black hole
Artist’s illustration of a black hole with the material surrounding it. Experts said that there is almost no chance of a black hole colliding with the Earth.

“Without a super-advanced civilization with nearly unlimited resources and energy that would intentionally ‘launch’ a black hole toward the solar system, it is unlikely that such a confrontation would be close to zero,” Goebel said.

“In the same way that we generally don’t worry ourselves about the passage of stars through the solar system, this can be extended to all objects in the galaxy,” he said.

Stars wander close enough, from time to time, to dislodge some comets from the outermost regions of the solar system, called the Oort cloud, but that is how much their gravity affects the solar system, and it is likely the same for any black holes or other compact masses It could wander, incidentally, past 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 away to have any kind of impact on our solar system.

For example, V616 Monocerotis (V616 Mon), believed to be among the closest black holes to our solar system, is located more than 3,000 light-years away.

“Even if a black hole consumes its binary partner, there isn’t enough mass to do anything exceptional except produce some radiation outbursts,” Goebel said. “At a distance from Earth, we would only notice by looking directly at the system with powerful monitoring instruments. The effect on Earth would be zero.”

Black holes come in two broad categories of size: stellar and massive (although recent research has revealed that there is also likely an intermediate category). Stellar black holes tend to have a mass several times greater than our Sun. On the other hand, supermassive black holes can contain masses ranging from millions to billions of solar masses.

The sun, planets and black hole
An artist’s drawing of the sun, several planets, and a black hole in space. Black holes are areas of space where gravity is so strong that nothing can escape from them.

Stellar-mass black holes, such as V616 Mon, form as the remains of massive stars that die in catastrophic cosmic explosions known as supernovae. One of the nearby stars that could in principle 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 or so. But this star is about 500 light-years away, and if it produced a black hole, there would be no impact on Earth.

How close are we to a black hole for it to have an impact?

While it would be hard to miss a supermassive black hole, or even an intermediate-mass black hole anywhere near the Solar System, a stellar-mass black hole cruising close to the Solar System without us noticing it early on is within the realm of possibility. . Jubilee said.

“[But] Even a black hole with a large stellar mass, say 30 solar masses, would have to be closer than Neptune (about 30 times the distance between Earth and the Sun) to begin to produce gravitational effects on Earth, and about Jupiter’s distance (about five times) the distance from Earth and the Sun) to pull the Earth with a gravitational force roughly equal to the Sun’s gravitational hold on the Earth.”

Black holes are notorious as omnipotent cosmic vacuum cleaners that consume everything in their path, but the reality is somewhat different, according to Goebel.

“Black holes, in general, are terrible at consuming matter,” he said. “The general test for this is to look at why black holes don’t consume the universe, and the answer is that black holes are very inefficient, under most circumstances, at consuming matter and growing to larger sizes.”

What if a black hole sucked the Earth?

If a black hole somehow got very close to Earth (closer to the Moon’s orbit, for example) and was traveling slowly enough, our planet would likely disintegrate due to strong gravitational forces from the object.

“The atmosphere and oceans will be stripped from the Earth’s surface, and molten metal will flow from the Earth’s mantle into space,” Zreek said.

This Earth debris will go into orbit around the black hole, and evaporate into ionized gas – that is, gas made up of atoms or molecules that have either lost or gained electrons. The gas will form a ring of material around the black hole, known as an accretion disk, most of which will be consumed over the course of a few hours to days, according to Zrich.

“The energy given off by the flowing gas will drive strong winds from the plasma [one of the four fundamental states of matter consisting of charged particles] In space, it produces high-energy radiation. It is likely that this light will be detected as a short flash of harsh X-rays by astronomers close to extraterrestrials.”

But the chances of this scenario happening are astronomically low. A little more plausible, but still incredibly improbable, is the scenario in which a black hole gets close enough to have an impact on Earth, although not close enough to consume our planet.

The main danger here, at least for life, is that the black hole perturbs Earth’s orbit enough to affect the climate, or displaces massive amounts of debris in the Solar System (such as asteroids, comets, and moons) and puts it on collision course. Of course with our planet, according to Zerik.

“While life on Earth would likely have survived such an event, humanity and nearly all multicellular species on Earth would certainly not,” Goebel said.