Thousands of planets could be orbiting super massive black holes

Katie Ramirez
November 27, 2019

Greedy supermassive black holes actively feeding on material at the center of galaxies aren't particularly known for creating nurturing environments for planets to be born. The conventional theories have it that planets are made of dust in protoplanetary disks around young stars.

This is an artist's impression of planets orbiting a supermassive black hole.

Despite their destructive nature, black hole accretion disks carry vital ingredients for planets to form.

Even since Einstein claimed the existence of black holes around a century ago, people understood that the hypothetical objects would be extremely unsafe if they exist.

Researchers have long thought that planets are formed from pieces of fluffy dust that settle in a disc around a young star.

The forming speed of planets reportedly depends on the mass of the black hole.

Instead of exploring the normal proto-planetary discs, scientists examined heavy discs around supermassive black holes that sit in the centre of galaxies. In stars, low temperatures in specific regions of the protoplanetary disk can cause dust particles with ice mantles to fuse together.

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The tidal forces close to the event horizon are enough to stretch any matter until it's just a string of atoms, in a process physicists call "spaghettification". This disk is 100,000 times the mass of the sun and 1 billion times the mass of a protoplanetary disk.

Professor Keiichi Wada of Kagoshima University, said: "With the right conditions, planets could be formed even in harsh environments, such as around a black hole".

The scientists used the theory of planet formation to look at circumnuclear disks, and concluded that it could be taking planets hundreds million of years to form.

"Our calculations present that tens of 1000's of planets with 10 occasions the mass of the Earth may very well be fashioned around 10 gentle-years from a black hole", says Eiichiro Kokubo, a professor on the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan who researches planet formation. But according to a recent study by a team of Japanese researchers, it is possible that SMBHs can actually form a system of planets!

Such proto-planetary discs then form into planets, like Earth.

However, there is now no way of detecting such planetary systems around a black hole, so there is no way of confirming whether planets of this kind have yet formed.

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