Rocky planets like Earth are tough. They can survive some pretty harsh conditions. Some have even formed from the debris around exploded stars. And they may form around supermassive black holes, where conditions could be comfortable for life.
Giant black holes inhabit the hearts of most big galaxies, including the Milky Way. Many of the black holes pull in gas and dust, creating a hot disk that spirals around the black hole. The disk produces radiation and winds of charged particles that could be bad news for newly forming planets.
But a recent study says that, under the right circumstances, it’s possible that Earth-like planets could be born around such a black hole. At the right distance, the disk would look the same size as the Sun does in our own sky, and it would provide about the same amount of energy.
That energy might help forge the chemical “building blocks” of life. And it could power photosynthesis in plants. With an especially big black hole, the “habitable zone” might be thousands of light-years wide.
Not surprisingly, there’s a downside to being in that zone. Black holes sometimes produce huge outbursts — enough to sterilize nearby planets. And the odd gravitational effects around a black hole could sling a planet around like a car on a roller-coaster.
Still, scientists aren’t ruling out the possibility that life could inhabit worlds around giant black holes.
Script by Damond Benningfield