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Will the earth ever be 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 there a possibility that planet Earth will ever be pulled into a black hole? And if so, what would happen in this scenario?

What is the probability that the earth will be swallowed up by a black hole?

Experts who have spoken news week said there is virtually no chance the Earth will ever collide with a black hole before being swallowed up by the Sun in about five billion years.

“Space has an apt name to start with,” said Doug Gobielle, a professor in the physics department at the University of Rhode Island news week. “The total average phosphor density of the universe is about one proton [a particle of light] per cubic meter. In the galaxy and solar system, this density is significantly higher, but still almost non-existent.”

“Objects that we might consider ‘big’ and ‘dense’ are quite rare in the grand scheme of the universe, these are planets, stars and the associated stellar debris that stars leave behind, including white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.” Gobielle said.

While there are countless stars in our galaxy alone, chance encounters between them are extremely rare due to the immense space between objects, said Jonathan Zrake, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University news week.

Artist’s rendering of a black hole with surrounding material. Experts say the probability of a black hole ever colliding with Earth is close to zero.
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“Except for a hyper-advanced civilization with nearly unlimited resources and energy that would intentionally ‘blow’ a black hole toward the solar system, such an encounter is so unlikely as to be close to zero,” Gobielle said.

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“Just as we don’t generally worry about stars moving through the solar system, this can be extended to all objects in the galaxy,” he said.

“Stars occasionally migrate close enough to eject a few comets from the outermost regions of the Solar System, known as the Oort Cloud, but such is the magnitude of their gravitational impact on the Solar System, and they would likely be the same case for.” black holes or other compact masses that would happen to wander past the solar system.”

Are nearby black holes a threat?

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

For example, V616 Monocerotis (V616 Mon), thought to be one of the nearest black holes in our solar system, is more than 3,000 light-years away.

“Even if the black hole consumes its binary partner, there just isn’t enough mass to do anything extraordinary, other than create some bursts of radiation,” Gobielle said. “At its distance from Earth, we would only notice this when looking directly at the system with powerful observational instruments. The impact on Earth would be zero.”

Black holes come in two main size classes: stellar and supermassive (although recent research has suggested there is likely an intermediate class as well). Stellar black holes are typically many times more massive than our Sun. Supermassive black holes, on the other hand, can have masses in the millions to billions of solar masses.

The sun, planets and a black hole
Artist’s rendering of the sun, several planets and a black hole in space. Black holes are regions in space where gravity is so strong that nothing can escape.
iStock

Stellar-mass black holes, like V616 Mon, form as the remnant of massive stars that die in catastrophic cosmic explosions known as supernovae. A nearby star 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 at some point in the next 10,000 years or so. But that star is about 500 light-years away, and if it produced a black hole, it wouldn’t affect Earth.

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

While it would be difficult to miss a supermassive black hole or even an intermediate-mass black hole anywhere near the solar system, a stellar-mass black hole migrating close to the solar system without our early detection is within the realm of possibility said Gobielle.

„[But] Even a large stellar-mass black hole, say 30 times the mass of the Sun, would have to be closer than Neptune (about 30 times the Earth-Sun distance) to exert gravitational effects on Earth, and about as far away as Jupiter (about that five times the Earth-Sun distance) to pull on Earth with about the same gravitational pull as the Sun’s gravitational pull on Earth,” he said.

Black holes have a reputation for being almighty cosmic vacuum cleaners, consuming everything in their path, but the reality, according to Gobielle, is a little different.

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

What if Earth was sucked into a black hole?

If a black hole somehow gets extremely close to Earth (closer than the Moon’s orbit, for example) and moves slowly enough, our planet is likely to be torn apart by the object’s extreme gravitational forces.

“The atmosphere and oceans would be stripped from the Earth’s surface, and molten metal would pour out of the Earth’s mantle into space,” Zrake said.

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This terrestrial debris would enter orbit around the black hole and be vaporized into ionized gas — that is, a gas made up of atoms or molecules that have lost or gained electrons. The gas would form a ring of material around the black hole known as the accretion disk, and most of it would be consumed over the course of a few hours to days, according to Zrake.

“The energy released from the collapsing gas would drive powerful plasma winds [one of the four fundamental states of matter consisting of charged particles] into space and generate high-energy radiation. This light could likely be detected by nearby extraterrestrial astronomers as a brief flash of hard X-rays,” he said.

But the likelihood of that scenario happening is astronomically small. Slightly more plausible, but still incredibly unlikely, is a scenario in which a black hole came close enough to have an impact on Earth even though it wasn’t close enough to engulf our planet.

The main danger here, at least to life, would be the black hole disrupting Earth’s orbit enough to affect the climate, or possibly detaching enormous amounts of debris in the solar system (like asteroids, comets and moons) and causing it to collide Of course with our planet, says Zrake.

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

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