The hypothesized ninth planet of our solar system has been thought to be a black hole for quite some time. Now, astronomers have found a way to study the flares caused by objects being gulped in by the black hole to determine whether "Planet 9" is really a primordial black hole.
Scientists from Harvard University have paired up with experts from the Black Hole Initiative (BHI) to utilise the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) mission and discover black holes in outer space. The new telescope has the ability to detect accretion flares that get generated when small objects collide with the Oort cloud that surrounds our solar system.
The study, recently published in the journal The Astrophysical Journal Letters reveals that whenever any small object interacts with a black hole, it melts due to the heat produced by accretion of gases around the black hole. So scientists can use the LSST to either “rule out or confirm Planet Nine as a black hole” within a year’s time.
As the black holes do not emit any light, these flares are the only way to illuminate its presence in the space. The same will help researchers detect the presence of black holes with similar mass as that of planets situated at the edges of the solar system.
“We also find that LSST could rule out or confirm the existence of trapped planet-mass black holes out to the edge of the Oort cloud, indirectly probing the dark matter fraction in subsolar mass black holes and potentially improving upon current limits by orders of magnitude,” the abstract for the paper further reads.