No Threat

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No Threat

Earth faces many threats from the cosmos. Asteroids or comets could slam into our planet. We could be zapped by radiation from an exploding star. And our technology could be zapped by outbursts from the Sun.

One thing we probably don’t have to worry about is being sucked in by a black hole. The odds of such an encounter are
astronomically small.

Most of the known black holes are a few times more massive than the Sun. The gravity of such a black hole creates a strong “warp” in the space around it. That distorts the appearance of stars and galaxies that line up behind it. For any black hole within a few light-years, that distortion would be easy to see through a telescope. Since no such black holes have been seen, it’s safe to say that none threatens Earth.

In fact, the space between stars is, well, spacious. That makes it almost inconceivable that a black hole or any other stellar object could nail the solar system. But it is possible that something could pass within a couple of light-years. At that range, its gravity could stir up the Oort Cloud, a shell of trillions of big iceballs on the fringes of the solar system. A gentle nudge could push some of those iceballs toward the inner solar system, where they could slam into Earth.

So far, though, astronomers have found no black holes, stars, or other bodies that are even remotely close enough to trigger such a bombardment. There’s nothing to worry about. For now.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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