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Thousands of planets can orbit a black hole

Planets may be orbiting a black hole just as our own planet orbits the sun. Imagine a planetary system of an almost unimaginable scale – tens of thousands of worlds, each ten times the mass of the earth, all orbiting the same supermassive black hole.

Could black holes house planetary systems? Image Credit: NASA / Alain Riazuelo

Sounds absurd, but can this system really exist?

We are accustomed to cosmological models that describe the formation of planets from a protoplanetary disk around stars.

Viable planets can form in the orbits of black holes

However, computer simulations by a team of Japanese astrophysicists shows that thousands of planets can form in the orbits of supermassive black holes.

Scientists came to the conclusion that at a distance of about 3,000 light-years from the supermassive black hole, rather comfortable conditions are observed where planets can form from dust particles.

Modeling showed that basically planets with a mass of 1 to 10 terrestrial are formed, and their origin takes about 100 million years.

Keiichi Wada, Yusuke Tsukamoto and Eiichiro Kokubo, who led the study, described the process of planet nucleation in detail: tiny particles of dust collide at low speeds and in some cases, sticking occurs. When the fragments acquire a size of more than a centimeter, the process accelerates sharply and so on until the appearance of a whole planet.

Professor Keiichi Wada of Kagoshima University in Japan said:

With the right conditions, planets could be formed even in harsh environments, such as around a black hole

The key to this idea is the understanding that the dust disks from which the planets form do not only occur around young stars – they can also occur around black holes. Why then can’t planets form in this environment?

Eiichiro Kokubo of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan said:

Our calculations show that tens of thousands of planets with ten times the mass of the Earth could be formed around ten light-years from a black hole.

Around black holes, there might exist planetary systems of astonishing scale.

To get an idea of ​​this scale – the dust disk around a supermassive black hole can contain something about a billion times the mass of a protoplanetary disk around a star.

It is noteworthy that some of these planets may be habitable.

The team of Czech astrophysicists from the University of Palacky, led by Tomáš Opatrna, proved that not just planets, but inhabited worlds can form in the orbits of black holes.

Viable planets can form in the orbits of black holes

The accretion disk is capable of producing a sufficient amount of heat and light, which means that a black hole in some sense could act as a source of lighting and energy, replacing an ordinary star.

Undoubtedly, a planet in the orbit of a supermassive black hole will receive significantly less energy than the Earth from the Sun, but in any case this would be enough for a primitive life to arise there.

In fact, detecting the planets in such a system will likely be a big challenge.

It turns out that in the film “Interstellar” the truth was much more than fiction.

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Space

How much water is there on Mars and is there enough for future colonists?

For many centuries, man dreamed of conquering the Red Planet, and it seems that in the very near future we will finally be able to take our first step in obtaining an interplanetary view. In order to be able to successfully land on Mars, NASA experts plan to first identify the most suitable place for the landing of future colonists. The main criterion in strict selection will be the presence of ice water, without which the existence of a person in the distant cold desert of a reddish hue would become completely impossible. So where should the first people land on the Red Planet and how much water is on Mars?

Mars and its most suitable zone for the construction of the first human colony outside the Earth

Is there a lot of water on Mars?

According to an article published on the portal phys.org, huge reserves of ice water on Mars can be located only at a depth of 2.5 centimeters from the surface. Its presence will be a key factor in choosing a potential landing site, because such important water resources of the planet will be one of the basic necessities for replenishing the colony’s drinking water reserves and making rocket fuel.

In order to find accessible ice water on Mars, NASA uses data from two spacecrafts at once – NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey Orbiter. According to the latest data received from the probes, future colonists will not even require the use of excavators and other heavy equipment to extract the vital resource, which can significantly reduce the cost of the course of the future mission.

Map of water ice on Mars

Blue shades show the closest water sources to the surface, red shades show the most distant ones. Black spots are sandy deserts, and the white area can be an ideal candidate for the landing of the first astronauts.

Due to the fact that liquid water cannot exist for a long time in a rarefied Mars atmosphere, almost instantly evaporating into outer space, scientists have yet to develop a technology that can allow water production without loss. The exact location of the ice can be detected using two heat-sensitive instruments – the Martian climate probe MRO and the thermal imaging camera system (THEMIS), designed specifically for Mars Odyssey.

Although there are a large number of places of interest for scientists on Mars, only a few of them are able to provide suitable landing sites for astronauts. So, despite the fact that the middle and southern latitudes of Mars receive more sunlight than its more northern regions, planetologists believe that the most preferred place for landing on Mars will be the Arcadia Planitia region, where water ice reserves are located only 30 centimeters under the surface of the planet.

Researchers believe that at present, the total water resources of the Red Planet are approximately 65 million cubic kilometers, which could well be enough to cover the surface of Mars with a layer of 35 meters thick water. Well, perhaps, future Martian colonists are unlikely to have to worry about the fact that the water on the Red Planet will someday end.

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The Interstellar Research Initiative plans to send people to the exoplanet of Proxima Centauri b

In an attempt to protect humanity from extinction in the event of some kind of global catastrophe of a planetary scale, a group of scientists announced a bold plan for the colonization of a distant exoplanet.

Proxima Centauri b

Scientists from the Initiative for Interstellar Studies said they were considering sending people to a potentially inhabited exoplanet in another stellar system.

The most promising option they consider, Proxima Centauri b, which is 4.24 light years away from Earth, which means the journey will take centuries or even millennia. This suggests that generations will succeed each other during the journey.

Technically, this is possible.

However, the challenges facing the mission are so numerous and complex that it can take decades to prepare.

“From the point of view of physics, there are no fundamental obstacles. There are many nuances, but this is not a violation of the fundamental laws of physics, ”said Andreas Hein, Executive Director of Initiative for Interstellar Studies.

No problem.

The main problem is the lack of experience being far beyond the Earth for such a period of time.

Even a flight to Mars, which will last about 6-8 months, raises a lot of questions.

Proxima Centauri b

There is no reliable protection against merciless radiation yet. Medical problems caused by a prolonged stay in space are still poorly understood. Other than that, there is no guarantee that Proxima Centauri b is indeed liveable.

Can you imagine what a setup would be if people born on a spaceship for one purpose would come to a planet absolutely unsuitable for settlement …

However, the authors of the project do not plan to curtail the program and continue to work actively in this direction.

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European Space Agency to launch space waste collector

A four-armed robotic junk collector will be launched into space by the European Space Agency in what it says will be the first mission to remove an item of debris from orbit.

European Space Agency to launch space waste collector

The ClearSpace-1 mission, scheduled for launch in 2025, will cost €120m and will grab a single piece of junk. But the agency hopes the mission will pave the way for a wide-reaching clear-up operation, with Esa’s director general calling for new rules that would compel those who launch satellites to take responsibility for removing them from orbit once they are retired from use.

Jan Wörner, CEO of ESA, said:

Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water. That is the current situation in orbit, and it cannot be allowed to continue.

In the past 60 years, thousands of tonnes of junk has accumulated around the Earth, including old rocket parts, about 3,500 defunct satellites and an estimated 750,000 smaller fragments, some from collisions between larger bits of junk. The fragments are typically circulating with a velocity of 20,000km/h (12,500mph).

Unless a clear-up operation is mounted, the chances of collisions will escalate as thousands more satellites are put into orbit.

Funding for the mission was agreed at Space19+, ESA’s misterial council, which took place in Seville, Spain, at the end of November. The mission will be run by a consortium led by a Swiss startup called Clearspace.

The target for ClearSpace-1 is a piece of junk called Vespa, which was left in an orbit around 800km above the Earth by ESA’s Vega launcher in 2013. Vespa weighs 100kg – around the size of a small satellite – and was selected because it has a simple shape and sturdy construction, which make it unlikely to fragment when it is grabbed.

The “chaser” ClearSpace space probe will be launched into the target orbit where it will track down Vespa, grab it using a quartet of robotic arms and drag it out of orbit, with Vespa and the chaser both burning up in the atmosphere on the way down to Earth.

A future ambition is to create a clear-up robot that could eject junk into the atmosphere, before continuing to capture and de-orbit other pieces of junk.

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