Is There a Black Hole in Our Backyard?
By Editor - Tue Sep 15, 1:15 pm
What is an astrophysicist to do during a pandemic, except maybe daydream about having a private black hole?Although it is probably wishful thinking, some astronomers contend that a black hole may be lurking in our solar system. They have been arguing over how to find it, if it is there, and what to do about it, proposing plans that are only halfway out of this world.The speculation began in 2016 when Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, astronomers at the California Institute of Technology, proposed that the weird motions of a few ice balls billions of miles beyond Pluto could be evidence of a previously unknown and unsuspected object way, way out there in the dark.According to their calculations, that object would be roughly 10 times as massive as Earth and would occupy an egg-shaped orbit that brought it as near as 20 billion miles from the sun — several times the distance from the sun to Pluto — and took it as far as 100 billion miles away every 10,000 to 20,000 years.”What we don't know is where it is in its orbit, which is too bad,” Brown told The New York Times at the time.Brown called this hypothetical object Planet Nine. Not long ago, Pluto was considered the ninth planet, but Brown's discoveries of other denizens in the Kuiper belt, the realm of frozen, orbiting dirt balls that Pluto inhabits, played a major role in demoting Pluto to a dwarf planet 15 years ago.Needless to say, nobody has yet seen this thing through a telescope.Last year, two astronomers — Jakub Scholtz of Durham University in Britain and James Unwin of the University of Illinois at Chicago — suggested that Planet Nine might actually be a black hole. But not just any kind of black hole.Black holes are the gravitational terrors predicted by Albert Einstein's equations, objects so dense that not even light can escape from them — one-way passages to doom. Astronomers know that such entities exist