Don’t look now, but there might be a black hole right behind you.
Well, maybe it hasn’t come to that (yet), but a new study by astronomers at the University of California, Irvine has found that black holes are much more common throughout the universe than previously thought.
In our Milky Way galaxy alone, there may be “as many as 100 million black holes,” according to UCI chair and co-author of the research, James Bullock.
They began calculating the number of stellar-remnant black holes after the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves in 2015. The waves were caused by the collision of two black holes, each “the size of 30 suns,” about 1.3 billion light years away from Earth.
This led them to wonder just how many massive black holes are really out there.
What they found, after looking at the “overall population of stars in the universe” and their initial mass distribution, was a number of black holes much higher than they first expected.
“We were able to work out how many big black holes should exist, and it ended up being in the millions – way more than I anticipated.” – James Bullock
I probably don’t need to say this, but black holes are crazy things.
It’s been hypothesized that they could be used for time travel. Circling one in the right manner could lead to a (relatively) faster journey forwards through time. Conversely, if we could locate a hypothetical Kerr black hole, it’s not impossible that we could safely voyage through it and emerge from a “white hole” on the other side – perhaps somewhere in the past.
Or, perhaps, in an entirely different universe.