Planets around Supermassive Black Holes are now possible, research reveals

Seen nearly edgewise, the turbulent disk of gas churning around a black hole takes on a crazy double-humped appearance. The black hole’s extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disk, producing the warped image. The black hole’s extreme gravitational field redirects and distorts light coming from different parts of the disk, but exactly what we see depends on our viewing angle. The greatest distortion occurs when viewing the system nearly edgewise. Above image is a NASA simulation of how a Black Hole might look like.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman

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Every galaxy has its heart in the epicenter, and as your human heart, this heart is also vital to the galaxy it exists in. A supermassive black hole is what this organ is in terms of space and science. In the case of our Milky Way, the location of this Black Hole is at the Galactic Core, the rotational center of our galaxy, or the site of the Saggitarius A, a compact astronomical radio source.

Before we jump into knowing more about the planets around a black hole, we need to know what a Black Hole is exactly. It is a region of space-time where the power of gravity is so strong that even light can’t escape from it. After being formed, a black hole absorbs anything that crosses a specific boundary, also known as the event horizon. Each black hole has a doughnut-shaped formation of dust and gases around it, which is called a torus.

black-hole-labeled
The various aspects of the simulation. Image Source: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman

By absorbing other stars and mixing up with other black holes, we get what is known as a supermassive black hole. A supermassive black hole can have a mass four million times the mass of the sun sitting at the center of our solar system.

But according to the latest research by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, it may be possible for planets to orbit them.

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Earlier, we had the notion that planets only formed from protoplanetary disks, which were made up of dust and gas found around stars. But this latest research states that planets may also develop from the torus around an SMBH (Supermassive Black Hole).

An artistic rendering of a supermassive black hole. Image: NASA

“The torus of an SMBH has a mass of about 100,000 times the mass of the sun, which is a billion times the mass of the dust in a protoplanetary disk,” says Professor Eiichiro Kokubo and colleagues from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in a statement. For the dust in a torus to form a planet, we need different temperatures in the clouds (which is where the black holes play a part). The dust disk around the black holes is so intense that the strong radiation from the central region is stopped and the low-temperature areas are formed.

If the temperature is low enough, the dust can cluster together to form a protoplanet, which is a primary stage in the building of a planet. Small icy particles can be formed from these regions, which can eventually grow into Earth-sized worlds. The distance from the black holes can be as close as just ten light-years away from the black hole with the planet being ten times the mass of our planet Earth.

This can lead to a planetary system around the black holes. This is an astounding find when taken into the fact that the conditions there are very harsh and raspy. The team’s paper is going to be published in the Astrophysics Journal.

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More from Space:

Scientists discover a black hole so large, it changes how we view the galaxy

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