Thousands of planets could be revolving around supermassive blackholes like how the Earth orbits the Sun, suggests new theory
The theory challenges the widely-held notion that planets are formed only around a young star
Black holes and stars like the Sun may share a common feature if a recent theory is to be believed. The theory suggests that thousands of planets could be orbiting a supermassive black hole (Image courtest Kagoshima University), just as planets orbit the Sun.
"With the right conditions, planets could be formed even in harsh environments, such as around a black hole," says Keiichi Wada, a professor at Kagoshima University.
The theory challenges the widely-held notion that planets are formed only around a young star. Scientists believe that young stars are surrounded by fluffy dust aggregates — called protoplanetary discs, which give rise to planets, like our own Earth.
However, the new theory predicts that young stars are not alone. Other objects like supermassive black holes could be having these discs around them.
"Our calculations show that tens of thousands of planets with 10 times the mass of the Earth could be formed around 10 light-years from a black hole," says Eiichiro Kokubo, a professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan who studies planet formation.
"Around black holes, there might exist planetary systems of an astonishing scale," says Kokubo.
Some supermassive black holes have large amounts of matter around them in the form of a heavy, dense disk. A disk around a supermassive black hole can have as much as 100,000 times the mass of the Sun, in the form of dust, the researchers suggest in the new theory.
Eventually, over a period of hundreds of millions of years, the disk takes the shape of a planet, says the team. The theory cannot be put to the test yet because there is no way of detecting such planetary systems around a black hole, and whether planets of this kind have formed yet.
You can find the preprint version of the study here.