The universe may be teeming with miniature black holes flying through the universe at colossal speeds, according to NASA. The primordial black holes, which may have been formed during the first second of the Big Bang, could collide with the Earth every 1,000 years. The black holes are said to vary in weight, with some weighing nearly as much as the Earth’s moon. Despite their extraordinary weight, the majority of these black holes are believed to be no larger than the period at the end of this sentence. While this theory may sound like the basis of a new sci-fiction movie, it is one of the latest explanations for the composition of the universe. Astrophysicists know that roughly 80 percent of the universe is made up of dark matter, which exerts a gravitational pull on the remaining 20 percent of ‘normal’ matter.
Dark matter still remains a mystery in the world of science. Despite the number of extraordinary achievements and discoveries we have made in our search to understand the universe, dark matter has remained invisible to experiments. We know it is there, but we cannot explain or comprehend it.
In their search for an explanation to dark matter, scientist have created devices aimed at sorting out particles of dark matter both in space and underground. However, as these efforts have not produced any solid results, scientists are now exploring the theory that the universe is made up of an infinite number of black holes that were formed 13.8 billion years ago.
“On the dark matter particle side of the spectrum, the range of possibilities is narrowing down quickly,”Alexander Kashlinsky, a cosmologist at NASA, previously told Business Insider. “If nothing is found there, and nothing is found in the black hole theater, then we may be in a crisis of science.”
However, it is important to note that while scientists are exploring the idea that all galaxies are embedded within a vast sphere of black holes, the existence of dark matter particles still remains the leading theory. So far, all efforts to find dark matter particles in the universal have produced disappointing results. As a result, scientist are looking to explain and understand dark matter by studying the black holes in our universe. The primordial black holes are believed to be between 20 to 100 times the mass of the sun, according to scientists.
In 2005, Kashlinsky and a team of astronomers set out to explore the background glow of infrared light in one part of the sky, using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. As detailed in their report, the scientists discovered excessive patchiness in the glow. According to the team, the patchiness was likely caused by the aggregate light of the first sources to illuminate the universe.
In a later study, scientists looked at how the cosmic X-ray background (CXB), detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, compared to the cosmic infrared background (CIB) in the same area of the sky. The team found that the irregular glow of low-energy X-rays in the CXB matched the patchiness of the CIB. The only other object that is known to sufficiently laminate across this wide an energy range is a black hole, leading the team to conclude that primordial black holes were likely abundant among the earliest stars.
“These studies are providing increasingly sensitive results, slowly shrinking the box of parameters where dark matter particles can hide,” Kashlinsky said. “The failure to find them has led to renewed interest in studying how well primordial black holes — black holes formed in the universe’s first fraction of a second — could work as dark matter.”
Earlier this year, unpublished research on “primordial” black holes suggested that black holes very small in diameter could exist in droves. These black holes are said to be about 0.25 millimeters in diameter – about the width of a human hair – with the heaviest weighing less than the moon. The very lightest asteroid-size holes would have an apparent size of less than an atom, according to Timothy Brandt, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study. The reason for this: Black holes are incredibly dense.
“Asteroid-mass black holes, if they were all of the dark matter, might pass through the Earth once a millennium or so, but would be very, very hard to detect,” Brandt told Business Insider. “If you had somebody right there, they might be able to observe one.”
In comparison, Brandt explains that we would most certainly notice a heavier, sub-moon-size black hole coming close to our atmosphere. “We certainly would notice if one passed near the Earth, since it would affect the orbits of all of our satellites,” he wrote in an email. “I imagine that it would mess up GPS for example.”
According to Brandt, mini-black holes of this size would only pass between Earth and the sun once every 100 million years or so.
“We would, on average, have to wait much longer than the age of the Universe for one to pass through the Earth. Though such an event is absurdly unlikely … It would cause some havoc,” he wrote.
However, while it is said that such a collision could certainly kill someone, scientists are more fearful of the prospect of what impossible-to-detect black holes could mean for science.
“It’s possible there is no interaction of dark matter [with normal matter] except through gravity,”Brandt said. “If that’s the case, we’re in trouble. We’ve never come to that point where we know something is out there but is completely invisible to our experiments.”
Kashlinsky added: “On the dark matter particle side of the spectrum, the range of possibilities is narrowing down quickly. If nothing is found there, and nothing is found in the black hole theatre, then we may be in a crisis of science.”
Image: Flickr, Kevin Gill (CC BY-SA 2.0)
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