NASA astronomer Dr Jeremy Schnittman took a “tongue-in-cheek” look at the cosmic repercussion if Earth’s Sun transformed into a black hole. All oceans would almost immediately freeze, spelling the inevitable end of life on Earth. However, this does that necessarily mean a planet orbiting a black hole is totally unsustainable towards alien life.
Inspired by the Christopher Nolan-directed sci-fi Hollywood film Interstellar, Dr Schnittman decided to dedicate an entire paper on the cosmic topic.
Interstellar saw NASA send astronauts on mission to discover a habitable planet outside our solar system via a worm hole.
Dr Schnittman wishing to explore the idea of a planet orbiting a black hole.
The film saw scientists discover three potential planets worthy of exploration, all of which orbit a supermassive black hole.
Interstellar is a fictional movie but was notably rigorous with its science.
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This may mean a specific type of black hole could provide energy for life much like the sun.
But there is, however, a problem. This type of energy and light would create a type of “all-pervasive blackbody radiation background would probably not be very conducive to complex life.”
The NASA paper then explains how a reflective, reverse Dyson sphere could potentially solve the radiation problem.
Dyson spheres are hypothetical megastructures completely encompassing a star and captures a significant percentage of its power output.
However, an exoplanet would still have neutrino subatomic particles to content with, which the paper describes as “nature’s silent killer”.
Dr Schnittman notes how it remains unclear if planets could exist near a black hole, much less support life.
But he further notes how thought experiments focus on these matters are good for science because they help scientists to think about new ways the Universe works.
Therefore, even if the idea of NASA sending astronauts to a planet near a black hole seems far-fetched, thinking about why could prove enlightening.