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Will the black hole at the center of the Milky way threaten the solar system?

2024-04-13 Update From: SLTechnology News&Howtos shulou NAV: SLTechnology News&Howtos > IT Information >

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This article comes from the official account of Wechat: SF Chinese (ID:kexuejiaodian), author: SF

We know that even light cannot escape under the attraction of a black hole. There is a supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky way, but in fact we will not be much affected, as long as we keep a safe distance.

/ photos by Katie Mack (Katie Mack)

Translation | Mai Li

Editor | Chen Qiang

The original article is published in Science focus, No. 12, 2023.

In May 2022, using the event Horizon Telescope (EHT), astronomers took the first picture of the Sagittarius A * black hole at the center of the Milky way galaxy. The Sagittarius A * black hole is a supermassive black hole with a mass 4 million times that of the sun.

EHT is a global collaborative project dedicated to capturing supermassive black holes. It can connect observatories around the world and integrate many of the observed data into an ultra-high resolution image.

According to the picture of the A * black hole in Sagittarius, we can see a large shadow in the center of the black hole. This shadow exists not because the light is blocked, but because once within the event horizon, even light cannot escape the black hole, that is to say, we cannot see the inside of the black hole.

Under the force of gravity, the propagation path of light passing near a black hole is also distorted, so it looks as if there is a black hole in the middle of a bright aperture. In other words, the shadow of a black hole looks black, not because the light is blocked, but because the light is swallowed.

Sagittarius A * Black Hole captured by the event Horizon Telescope (image source: EHT Collaboration) the black hole can devour all matter, including light, and the event horizon is actually the boundary of the black hole. The event horizon means a "point of no return", and anything that crosses this boundary cannot escape the black hole.

At the event horizon, the escape velocity (the speed required to escape the gravity of a black hole) is equal to the speed of light. Einstein's special theory of relativity sets the speed of light as a hard limit-no object in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light. Therefore, nothing can escape the black hole.

The image of Sagittarius A * black hole further confirms that there is not only a supermassive black hole in the universe, but also a supermassive black hole in accordance with the theory of relativity.

Of course, Sagittarius A * black holes don't just gobble up light. Like all supermassive black holes, it attracts any gas, dust and hot plasma that hovers near the event horizon. Every once in a while, something that excites astronomers-supermassive black holes engulf the entire star system. Strong X-rays are emitted when stars are torn apart by tidal forces (different parts of the body are subjected to different amounts of gravity at different distances from the source of gravity, resulting in a gravitational difference, which is the tidal force).

So far, we have only observed that the A * black hole of Sagittarius has swallowed up a few gas clouds, but we know that it is not "picky".

So, should we be worried? There is an insatiable behemoth at the center of our Milky way galaxy, which is 4 million times the mass of the sun. Will it keep astronomers awake at night?

As long as we keep a certain distance, black holes will not threaten us. Although we all know that a black hole doesn't let go of light, no matter how big a black hole is, it can't hurt people who are far from getting close to it. This is due to the subtle effects of gravity at different distances.

According to Einstein's general theory of relativity, we are pulled by gravity because a massive celestial body bends the surrounding space, changing the way matter and light move in the space around it.

All matter and energy will bend space to some extent, because gravity is a ubiquitous force. The space you are in now is also affected by the gravitational pull of everything else in the universe, although some of the gravitational effects are extremely weak.

What is special about black holes is that the singularities in the core have infinite spatial curvature. Therefore, it is impossible to leave the black hole within the event horizon. In other words, any attempt to leave the singularity of a black hole will eventually return to the singularity.

Even if it is not close to the event horizon, in the area near it, tidal forces can destroy many things. But if you stay away from these dangerous areas, the curvature of black hole space affects you just like any other ordinary star or mass of matter.

If the sun collapses into a black hole now, the earth will continue to orbit unaffected. At this point, the temperature and brightness of the sun will drop a lot, but we are far enough away that we can't even measure the gravitational change of the sun.

When it comes to the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A * located at the center of the Milky way, its gravity not only does not threaten our solar system, but also does not have much impact on the solar system's orbit around the center of the Milky way.

At the center of the Milky way, the total mass of stars, gas and dust is several orders of magnitude heavier than the Sagittarius A * black hole, not including the ghostly dark matter that fills the entire space. But the orbits of the solar system, as well as those of all other stars in the Milky way, are safe.

At least for now.

In about 4 billion years, the Milky way will collide with the Andromeda galaxy, and stars and planets will be thrown across the universe like a dazzling fireworks display. This could cause supermassive black holes at the centers of the two galaxies to spin and merge.

Right now, we can't predict what will happen to the solar system at that time. But hopefully somewhere far away in the universe, someone will have their cameras ready to capture this amazing sight.

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