A neighborhood black hole?
The mysterious object known as Planet 9 that many astronomers believe is waiting to be discovered in the outer reaches of our solar system might actually be a black hole no bigger than a bowling ball, reports NBCNews.com. Planet 9 proponents have pointed to the unusual orbit paths of asteroids, comets, and other bodies in the region beyond Neptune, which appear to be influenced by the gravity of an object up to 15 times more massive than Earth. So far, scientists haven’t been able to locate the phantom object. A new study by two theoretical physicists proposes that Planet 9 could be a primordial black hole, which means it wouldn’t be detected by visible-light or infrared telescopes. Unlike black holes that are formed by collapsing stars, primordial black holes are thought to be small, superdense clumps of matter that formed in the aftermath of the Big Bang. Their existence, however, has never been confirmed. “The discovery of a giant planet in the outer solar system would be an extraordinary discovery,” says co-author James Unwin, from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “But the discovery of a primordial black hole would be immense and even more spectacular.”