AUG 12, 2020 3:39 PM PDT

Earthlike Planets May Orbit Supermassive Black Holes

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Supermassive black holes are enormous wells of gravity that bind galaxies together and emit bright X-ray beams. Known to occasionally release vibrant columns from their poles, scientists at Kagoshima University in Japan now suspect that they may also host tens of thousands of 'black hole planets', otherwise known as 'blanets'. 

While this may be the case, the scientists say that not every supermassive black hole would be able to host blanets. This comes as the swirling gas and dust around these holes are less dense than that swirling around stars. Moreover, conditions may simply be too hot for ice to form- one of the key ingredients for planetary- and blanetary- formation. 

Typically, ice-covered dust particles tend to stick together when they collide- like two ice cubes. They then continue to grow, and their combined mass ends up generating enough of a gravitational pull to attract even more dust, eventually forming rocky planets, and potentially blankets. 

Although blanet formation may be impossible in many areas around supermassive black holes, some have what are known as's now lines'- regions that are cool enough for ice to form. And it is in these areas that ice-covered dust particles may be able to collide and form rocky blanets- in a matter of just 10 million years. Would these blanets then attract enough gas, they could even form 'gas blanets'- black hole-orbiting equivalents of Earth. 

While blanets are not a particularly surprising phenomenon, Keiichi Wada, lead author of the study, says that no one had previously investigated the potential of planets forming around supermassive black holes. 

Currently, Wada and his co-authors are continuing to work on the finer details of their blanet theory. As yet, Wada says there is no way to know if life may exist on these blanets. After all, whether or not aliens would be able to survive the strange ultraviolet light and X-ray radiation emitted from black holes remains a mystery- as well as if these blanets meet other criteria for supporting life. 

 

Sources: Space.comarXiv

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  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
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