HomeOutdoorsNewsSupermassive Black Hole Changes Direction, Now Faces Earth

Supermassive Black Hole Changes Direction, Now Faces Earth

by Caitlin Berard
Illustration of Supermassive Black Hole in Space

As a whole, the limitless expanse of space is a difficult, if not impossible, concept to digest. No otherworldly objects floating in the dark vacuum are quite as outlandish and horrifying, however, as a supermassive black hole. But exist, they do, and one is currently pointed directly at us.

Without even a telescope, we’re able to see all kinds of faraway objects from right here on Earth. The Sun and Moon are everyday sights, along with the countless stars dotting the sky after nightfall. Every now and then, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, and Mars make an appearance as well.

As it’s part of our everyday lives, it’s difficult to comprehend that the Sun is actually a 4.5 billion-year-old star stationed around 93 million miles from Earth and stretching 864,000 miles in diameter (109 times wider than our little Blue Planet).

If trying to imagine an object over 100 times larger than Earth is enough to break your brain, consider this: supermassive black holes are those with masses equal to more than 1 million Suns together.

Well, scientists revealed Tuesday that one of these impossibly large entities unexpectedly changed direction and is now aiming toward Earth.

Faraway Galaxy Rotated 90 Degrees to Face Earth

The galaxy in question, PBC J2333.9-2343, was reclassified after scientists discovered the supermassive black hole at its center. At nearly 4 million light-years across, it’s close to 40 times the size of the Milky Way (the galaxy holding our Solar System).

Scientists initially classified it as a radio galaxy but subsequently realized it had rotated 90 degrees, its center pointed toward Earth. This altered its classification to a “blazar,” meaning it has jet points facing Earth.

According to the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), blazars are high-energy objects considered among the most powerful phenomena in the Universe. Scientists remain unsure of what caused the change in direction. Some, however, believe that PBC J2333.9-2343 collided with another galaxy, resulting in the strange shift.

Additionally, it remains unclear how the new direction of the supermassive black hole will affect our galaxy. That said, it’s roughly 657 million light-years away, much too far to suck Earth into its endless depths.

Could the Sun Ever Become a Supermassive Black Hole?

Like all stars, the Sun isn’t immortal. It has a lifespan of around 9-10 billion years and is currently around halfway through this long, long life.

The possibility is still billions of years away, but if supermassive black holes result from the death of stars, could the Sun ever become one? No, the Sun is too small to create a black hole, let alone one of the supermassive variety.

And let’s say the Sun were to disappear and be replaced with a black hole. The Earth still wouldn’t be pulled in. Earth and the other planets in the Solar System would simply orbit the black hole as they currently orbit the Sun.

That said, the Sun’s eventual death will result in the demise of Earth, whether that’s from the star’s expansion encompassing Earth or the loss of light and warmth leaving the planet inhospitable to life.