14 April 2011

Life beyond event horizon possible

Cosmos Online
While black holes continue to intrigue astrophysicists, a new theory suggests planets with advanced life could hypothetically exist within their boundaries.
Black hole

Life could exist on planets hidden inside the extreme environment of a supermassive hole, says a Russian physicist. Credit: NASA/JPL

SYDNEY: While black holes continue to intrigue astrophysicists, a new theory suggests planets with advanced life could hypothetically exist within their boundaries.

Drawing from previous notions that subatomic particles such as photons have stable orbits inside the structure of black holes, the theory states that planets could also find steady orbits inside spinning, supermassive black holes and safely inhabit this theoretical domain.

Put forth by Vyacheslav Dokuchaev, a physicist form the Institute for Nuclear Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, the idea is predicated on planets voyaging through a black hole’s event horizon – the imaginary gravitational boundary-line beyond which nothing, even light, can escape.

It could explain the ‘great silence of the Cosmos’, Dokuchaev said, the paradox that asks “if the extraterrestrial civilizations exist, why we do not hear and see them?”

Settling into a safe orbit
Inside the hypothetical structure of a rotating black hole, there are two event horizon boundaries that layer each other. The traversing planet would need to pass through both horizons and then settle into a stable periodic orbit without crashing into the central singularity.

The singularity is the ring-shaped core of a spinning black hole, where the laws of physics and space-time completely break down.

If anything hits this zone, the resulting tidal force would mean instant ‘spaghettification’ – a process whereby an object undergoes immense vertical stretching and horizontal compression.

According to the paper, posted on the arXiv physics website, the inner-domain of a black hole is theoretically spacious enough to host planets and could also provide sufficient energy to support life.

Advanced civilisations could exist on the inside of black holes, invisible to the outside universe. The naked singularity – or core – would illuminate the planet and provide a constant energy source, while additional energy would come from the eternally circulating photons, the paper said.

Cool idea, lacking depth
Charley Lineweaver, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University in Canberra, said this was the most interesting part of the paper, but he said the ideas weren’t explored in enough detail. “The paper ended where it should have began,” he said.

Lineweaver said the notion of being inside a spinning black hole is complicated because of the presence of a second event horizon – which is necessary for stable orbits. While the paper did a good job reviewing these previously-identified stable orbits, Lineweaver said it offered little in the way of new developments.

“The biggest problem with this theory is that it is not a theory. It is cool but speculative idea,” said Lineweaver. “I would say it is potentially interesting, but hasn’t been developed.”

Still Lineweaver, said there is nothing wrong with far-fetched theories. “There have been a few papers entertaining ideas that we are living in a black hole right now,” he said. “These ideas may not be completely crazy.”


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