Our Galaxy has millions of undetected black holes that could complicate interstellar travel

Researchers have found bad news for interstellar travel. As it turns out, our galaxy may contain millions of undetected black holes that could seriously complicate our efforts to explore and colonize space.

This artist’s impression depicts a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disc. Image Credit: ESO, ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is apparently infested with black holes of different sizes. This could complicate the possibility of interstellar travel (or Star Trek style interstellar jumps) because it would be very difficult to calculate correctly whether or not there’s a black hole here and there, resulting in miscalculation that could make the traveler end up in a space-time curvature.

The new study published in the Royal Astronomical Society by Professor James Bullock and his colleagues of the University of California, United States, claim to have discovered the number of black holes that exist in the Milky Way, and the number approaches 100 Million, of which millions would be supermassive black holes.

“We managed to work out how many massive black holes exist out there, and it ended up being in the millions – which is many more than I anticipated at first,” said James Bullock, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, in a release.

According to Professor Bullock, the discovery was made thanks to the observations of gravitational waves, first detected in 2015 by the LIGO observatory.

“Fundamentally, the detection of gravitational waves was incredibly important, as it was proof of a key prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity,” Bullock said.

“But then we looked closer at the astrophysics of the actual result, a merger of two 30-solar-mass black holes. That was simply astounding and had us asking, ‘How common are black holes of this size, and how often do they merge?’”

Scientists have concluded that black holes pervade the universe.

Professor Bullock estimates that in the coming years we will detect another wave of impact from the collision of two black holes.

According to his study, the galaxy has about 100 million of these singularities that could complicate interstellar travel based on jumping from one point of space to another, in the style of Star Trek or Star Wars.

Of course, for this to be a real problem mankind must first develop that technology which, in theory, would allow us to reach potentially habitable exoplanets.

“We have a pretty good knowledge of the total population of stars in the universe and their mass distribution as they’re born, so which means we can tell how many black holes may have formed with 100 solar masses versus 10 solar masses,” Bullock explained.

Source: UCI celestial census indicates that black holes pervade the universe

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