Could Primordial Black Holes Deflect Asteriods on a Collision Course with Earth?

Primordial black holes (PBHs) are getting mischievous again. These artefacts from the Big Bang could be responsible for hiding inside planets or stars, they may even punch a neat, radioactive hole through the Earth. Now, they might start playing interplanetary billiards with asteroids in our solar system.

Knocking around lumps of rock may not sound very threatening when compared with the small black holes’ other accolades, but what if a large asteroid was knocked off course and sent in our direction? This could be one of the most catastrophic events yet to come from a PBH passing through our cosmic neighborhood…

As a race, we are constantly worried about the threat of asteroids hitting Earth. What if another large asteroid – like the one that possibly killed the dinosaurs around 65 million BC or the one that blew up over Tunguska in 1908 – were to come hurtling through space and smash into the Earth? The damage caused by such an impact could devastate whole nations, or plunge the world as we know it to the brink of extinction.

But help is at hand. From the combined efforts by groups such as NASAs Near Earth Object Program and international initiatives, governments and institutions are beginning to take this threat seriously. Tracking threatening Near Earth Asteroids is a science in itself, and for now at least, we can relax. There are no massive lumps of rock coming our way (that we know of). The last scare was a comparatively small asteroid called “2008 CT1” which came within 135,000 km of the Earth (about a third of the distance to the Moon) on February 5th, but there are no others forecast for some time.

So, we now have NEO monitoring down to a fine art – we are able to track and calculate the trajectory of observed asteroids throughout the solar system to a very high degree of accuracy. But what would happen if an asteroid should suddenly change direction? This shouldn’t happen right? Think again.

A researcher from the Astro Space Center of the P. N. Lebedev Physics Institute in Moscow has published works focusing on the possibility of asteroids veering off course. And the cause? Primordial black holes. There seems to be many publications out there at the moment musing what would happen should these black holes exist. If they do exist (and there is a high theoretical possibility that they do), there’s likely to be lots of them. So Alexander Shatskiy has gotten to the task of working out the probability of a PBH passing through the solar systems asteroid belts, possibly kicking an asteroid or two across Earths orbit.

Shatskiy finds that PBHs of certain masses are able to significantly change an asteroids orbit. There are estimates of just how big these PBHs can be, the lower limit is set by black hole radiation parameters (as theorized by Stephen Hawking), having little gravitational effect, and the upper limit is estimated to be as massive as the Earth (with an event horizon radius of an inch or so – golf ball size!). Naturally, the gravitational influence by the latter will be massive, greatly affecting any piece of rock as it passes by.
Real-time map of the distribution of thousands of known asteroids around the inner solar system. Red and yellow dots represent high risk NEOs (credit: Armagh Observatory)
Should PBHs exist, the probability of finding one passing though the solar system will actually be quite high. But what is the probability of the PBH gravitationally scattering asteroids as it passes? If one assumes a PBH with a mass corresponding to the upper mass estimate (i.e. the mass of the Earth), the effect of local space would be huge. As can be seen from an asteroid map (pictured), there is a lot of rocky debris out there! So something with the mass of the Earth barrelling through and scattering an asteroid belt could have severe consequences for planets nearby.

Although this research seems pretty far-fetched, one of the calculations estimate the average periodicity of a large gravitationally disturbed asteroids falling to Earth should occur every 190 million years. According to geological studies, this estimate is approximately the same.

Shatskiy concludes that should small black holes cause deflection of asteroid orbits, perhaps our method of tracking asteroids may be outdated:

If the hypothesis analyzed in this paper is correct, modern methods aimed at averting the asteroid danger appear to be inefficient. This is related to the fact that their main idea is revealing big meteors and asteroids with dangerous orbits and, then, monitoring these bodies. However, if the main danger consists in abrupt changes of asteroidal orbits (because of scattering on a PBH), revealing potentially dangerous bodies is hardly possible.”

Oh dear, we might be doomed after all…

Source: arXiv

21 Replies to “Could Primordial Black Holes Deflect Asteriods on a Collision Course with Earth?”

  1. If an earth mass PBH can deflect astroids towards earth it can as well collide with earth. The probablities may not be significantly different. Should the mass of earth suddenly become double, what will happen to its orbit? Even If it passes by the moon distance what will happen to earth’s orbit? Think of the tides that can be generated by 64 times as massive an object as moon?

    There are some tell-tale signatures of planets shifting their orbits, PBHs in the past could have played a bigger role than Jupiter in such cases?

    It opens up a lots of questions

  2. Congrats, another of this purely speculative fiction articles.

    This has nothing to do with science its pure speculation with pseudo scientific words.

    a shame again.

  3. It would be pretty cool IF you could find a PBH and somehow direct it to take up residence in the center of Mars’ core to give the Red Planet extra mass. That would help with terraforming Mars for colonization.

    But really, this is very close to science fiction. It must be a slow news day.

  4. surely if this had happened there would be some mathematical record in the distribution of asteroids disturbed by the passage of such an object

  5. Cathbad should realize that all scientific endeaver starts with an idea & the more ideas the better.
    Most discoveries are because the people involved are not conventional.
    Take Relativity for example. Einstein was not awarded the Nobel prize for the greatest scientifc theory in history, because the establishment considered the theory too controversial. There are many more.

    So Cathbad stop hiding behind your user name and open your mind.
    Your negative comments are not appreciated .

  6. Frasier, you are my favorite for daily informatin on astronomy. Don’t let that “quality bar” you have held so high in the past slip any lower. I also hope that the “you are the 9… visitor and have won” advertisement that keeps flashing in my face is paying you well.

  7. LOL

    Dear Tony learn about scientific work and then repeat your playschool statement.
    I guess you have watched too much of discovery channel gossip.
    Dont cite Einstein when you want to appear knowledgable.
    Einstein worked hard and seriously over 15 years on the STR and GTR. He published the first part after 5 years of scientific in the annals of physics 1905. then he continued another 10 yeras for GR. And worked til his death in 1955 on the unification of GTR and field theory.

    Dont mix serious physics with this joker articles of pure fiction without even the aim to be at the edge of trusted scientific work.

    Do you think Einstein would have asked one of these ‘journalists’ to quote him about gravitation as an effect of space warp and speculate if earth would rip by the curvature ?

    My mind is wide open to credible work, this article is lurid mixture of a bit of fear mixed with some cool astrophysical speculations and a coat of expert quoting.

    Hiding ? What should I hide ? a clear mind ? Some real scientific background ? A serious journalistic experience ?

    What is your reason to deny reality ?

  8. Cathbad,

    Your comments are not welcome, if this article or site doesnt do it for you please spare us your attitude and go elsewhere, i personally enjoyed this article and ill take it for what its worth..

  9. Dear Cathbad.
    You are making a lot of assumptions about me, of which you have no knowledge.

    Assumptions are dangerous.

    They can show your ignorance.

    Enough said. end of thread.

  10. Cathbad dis the biggest nerd ever! and all of you guys need to get off of the computer and get some excersise before your fatter and an even bigger losers than you probably are!

  11. peter pan you are right indeed.
    This site seems a magnet and well suited for the type of people you eloquently and intelligently describe.

    Now it is getting clear that you guys here seek for woulds and mights. No need to be credible. Enough to waffle and swagger about unhatched eggs in pseudo scientific language.

    The aggression that you and the other intellectuals build show clearly what minds are behind.

    Escapists, dreamers and, probably yes, nerds that avoid real life.

    Tony you seem to me more of an coward than I thought. Insults and then running away into the anonymity you slashed before.

  12. Peter Pan you are way off topic, more than anyone could ever be.
    Your posts are not better than the patronizing agressions of these guys like Neil and Tony devoid of humor and full of selfrighteousmess.
    And given your niveau I am living in a beautiful dream.

    I am looking forward to the next could and might article.

  13. Look, with the article about “web of Dark Matter” and this one I think this site is on the wrong track.
    More like science fiction

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  15. So basically, there’s a black hole INSIDE the frikkin’ Earth?!? You’ve GOTTA be kiddin’ me! If there was a black hole inside the earth, we’d be sucked in and killed instantly!

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