Advice to a baby planet: Avoid black holes

baby planet torn apart by black hole

A dust cloud, navigating the orbits of dozens of stars (blue), gets torn apart by the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy in this artist’s illustration.

ESO, S. Gillessen, MPE, Marc Schartmann

If you’re having a bad day, it could be worse: A black hole could be eating your planet. A dusty blob that loops around the heart of the Milky Way might be all that’s left of an infant world, researchers suggest June 18 in the Astrophysical Journal. The embryonic planet could have been kidnapped by the region’s supermassive black hole and slowly disintegrated by harsh ultraviolet radiation.

Hundreds of young stars hang out in the center of the galaxy. Cometlike tails stream away from some of these younglings, which researchers recently proposed might be signatures of crumbling planet nurseries.

headshot of Associate News Editor Christopher Crockett

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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