"Around black holes, there might exist planetary systems of astonishing scale."
It's a Trap!
Somewhere out there, there may be massive exoplanets that orbit giant black holes instead of stars.
Research recently published in The Astrophysical Journal proposes that supermassive black holes — like the one at the center of our galaxy — could have tens of thousands of planets born from rings of dust and debris that condensed while trapped in the black hole's orbit. If the idea holds up, it could make scientists revisit a fundamental assumption about the structure of the cosmos.
The Japanese astronomers behind the study calculate that any exoplanets orbiting a supermassive black hole would need to do so from extremely far away, lest they get drawn in and gobbled up by their voracious hosts.
"Our calculations show that tens of thousands of planets with ten times the mass of the Earth could be formed around ten light-years from a black hole," National Astronomical Observatory of Japan researcher and paper author Eiichiro Kokubo said in a press release. "Around black holes, there might exist planetary systems of astonishing scale."
The new study is purely theoretical. The math supports the idea that these exoplanet-black hole systems could be out there.
But as of yet, scientists don't know how to — or even if they can — hunt them down. Finding a way to actually test the new idea, in other words, comes next.
READ MORE: Planets around a black hole? Calculations show possibility of bizarre worlds [National Astronomical Observatory of Japan]
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