The new paper published by Durham University and the University of Illinois in Chicago, suggests that what was previously thought to be an invisible planet on the edge of the Solar System is in fact an ancient blackhole. The Scientists claim the new conclusion explains the phenomena taking place better than anything else that has previously been proposed.
The researchers expressed their concern over the findings, as the outer reaches of the Solar System displays “odd” gravitational orbit anomalies.
Concerns were raised further when Poland’s Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) recorded a set of gravitational anomalies.
The oddities of the gravitational pull led the university’s researchers to propose the presence of a primordial black hole (PBH) in place of what scientists have previously called “Planet 9”.
They believe the black hole to be ancient, created within the first second after the Big Bang, that has somehow been captured by our solar system.
The authors consider this idea every bit as likely as a Planet 9.
The potential existence of a black hole sitting on the edge of the Solar System prompts the question of whether the Earth and surrounding planets will one day be drawn into it.
Fears have been furthered as scientists explained that if the black hole hypothesis is true and is located in the same area as the proposed Planet 9, it is around 56billion miles away from Earth.
This is less then a single light year – 6trillion miles – extremely close in astronomical terms.
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Though, Professor Scholtz was quick to play-down any fears, explaining: “For normal black holes you need to have at least a solar mass because it is created out of a star.
“These primordial black holes can be much lighter; for example, an Earth mass, or in fact, even lighter.”
This means the proposed black hole would be tiny and likely not big enough to worry about.
The scientists have also said the likelihood of the mass being a black hole or a planet are very similar.
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James Unwin, of the University of Illinois, said: “A solution with an ordinary planet and a solution with an exotic compact object like a primordial black hole are very similar.”
Professor Unwin and Durham University’s lead researcher, Jakub Scholtz, said both phenomena “can be simultaneously explained by a new population of astrophysical bodies with mass several times that of Earth.”
They went as far as to suggest that the presence of a black hole would be easier to comprehend, as a Planet 9 would require a re-thinking of planetary formation given that it would be a free-floating member of a solar system.
Intriguingly, the scientists say, the proposed PBH may ultimately be more observable than Planet 9 has proven to be, if indirectly.
Professor Scholtz and Unwin say confirmation of a PBH could be achieved by capturing gamma-ray signals from its microhalo composed of dark matter.
Though dark matter is currently invisible to humans, with no way to directly observe it, scientists believe that the fatal interactions between dark matter and normal matter at the edge of the PBH would produce gamma “annihilation signals” that devices such as the Fermi Space Telescope or the Chandra X-ray Observatory could detect.
The microhalo in question might extend hundreds of thousands of mules from the black hole’s centre.
Professor Unwin said: “We actually expect [annihilation signals] to happen at quite a significant rate.
“These things have the potential to just be glowing sources in the sky.”
The paper published by Professor Scholtz and Unwin is still under peer review and hasn’t yet been published in its final form, so there may yet be some attention brought to certain methods and reasonings that led to the conclusion.
It is also a new idea – the first of its kind, with the anomalous orbit largely being considered to be down to a rogue planet, of which many have called Planet 9.
The two scientists told UIC Today that they were fully aware of how outlandish their proposal might seem at first glance, but were quick to justify their conclusion.
Professor Unwin said: “We’re not saying that it can’t be a planet, we’re saying it need not be a planet.
“The important point is that this extends the experimental search needed to find this object we believe may be in the outer Solar system.”
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