Microscopic Black Holes with the Mass of the Moon Might Be Shooting Through the Universe

Monday, 22 August 2016 - 12:41PM
Astrophysics
Black Holes
Monday, 22 August 2016 - 12:41PM
Microscopic Black Holes with the Mass of the Moon Might Be Shooting Through the Universe
Black holes are some of the most mysterious (and most frightening) features in our Universe. But as it turns out, they might be even scarier than we thought, as scientists are hypothesizing that there could be countless microscopic black holes hurtling through space like super-dense bullets with as much mass as the Moon.

This theory was advanced in response to the ongoing—and increasingly frustrating—search for dark matter. Cosmologists know that approximately 80% of the matter in our Universe is composed of dark matter, but we haven't had any luck in finding it so far. As a result, some researchers are claiming that dark matter may not be made of some kind of exotic particle, as we previously assumed, but it might just be a collection of black holes that formed at the beginning of our Universe.

According to this theory, many black holes that compose the mass in our Universe were formed not by dying stars, but from the primordial soup right after the Big Bang. If they formed in this manner, then they could be much smaller than previously theorized—.25 mm, or approximately the diameter of a human hair. The smallest of these black holes would have approximately the mass of an asteroid compressed into this tiny space, and the largest would approach the mass of Earth's moon.

But if these tiny black holes are truly shooting through space, then what does that mean for Earth? According to Timothy Brandt, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study, asteroid-sized black holes would pass Earth approximately every 1,000 years, but they would be difficult to detect because they're so small. Moon-sized black holes, on the other hand, would have a measurably effect on our communications:

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"We certainly would notice if one passed near Earth, since it would affect the orbits of all of our satellites," Brandt told Science Alert. "I imagine that it would mess up GPS for example."
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Luckily, this will probably never happen. These black holes would only pass between the Earth and Sun every 100 million years or so, and would statistically take longer than the age of the Universe to pass through Earth. "Though such an event is absurdly unlikely ... It would cause some havoc," Brandt said.

And theoretically, what would happen to a hapless astronaut who ran into a microscopic black hole? This would probably never happen, but if it did, it would be as devastating as one would expect:

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"That could definitely kill someone," Branft said. "[It would be] a bit like a bullet, but with the damage being done by tidal forces deforming the object and generating intense heat."
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Black Holes