The cores may cause the “dark stars” to radiate dark matter into the universe.
The study may also explain the origin of fast radio bursts.
What if black holes, those all-consuming gravitational behemoths of the cosmos, aren’t actually black at all—or even holes, for that matter? Instead, a new theory suggests black holes may be dark stars with hearts of extremely dense, exotic matter. This could help explain one of the biggest mysteries of the universe: the origin and nature of dark matter.
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Black holes are real-life examples of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity taken to the extreme. They’re places in the universe where enormously dense amounts of matter stretch the fabric of space and time to its limit, forming an infinitely deep gravitational well that not even light can escape—hence the “black hole” name.
Scientists believe at the center of each black hole, there lies an infinitely small and dense point called a singularity. Gravity is so strong at the singularity that it forms an event horizon surrounding it, where the pull of gravity surpasses even the speed of light.
At infinitely small singularities, the laws of physics break down. That’s when two seemingly opposing fields of physics—quantum mechanics (describing the super tiny) and general relativity (describing the very large)—come face to face with each other. By studying the nature of black holes, researchers hope to combine the two fields into a unified theory of quantum gravity.
The problem? The singularity appears to be physically impossible, because matter isn’t capable of collapsing into an infinitely small point.
Physicists have cleverly dodged this issue by inventing their own singularity-free black holes, which they call “dark stars”. These imaginative creations appear like black holes on the outside, but inside, they contain an extremely (but not infinitely) dense core of matter compressed to the tiniest possible scale, or a “Planck core”. It borrows its name from the incredibly small fundamental unit of measurement called the Planck length, which is on the order of 10^-35 meters, or roughly 100 trillion times smaller than a proton.
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Without a singularity at its center, a dark star could theoretically allow light to escape its powerful gravitational grasp. Any light that would escape the black hole would be stretched like a slinky from the dark star’s gravitational pull, an observable phenomenon scientists call redshift.
“In strong gravitational fields, [dark stars] behave interestingly,” physicist Igor Nikitin, of Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Scientific Algorithms and Computing, writes in his new paper, which appears on the preprint server arXiv:
“First of all, the event horizon, typical for real black holes, is erased. Instead, a deep gravitational well is formed, where the values of the redshift become enormously large. As a result, for an external observer the star looks black, like a real black hole.”
If this phenomenon exists, Nikitin says it could help explain the true nature of dark matter.
Astronomers first discovered the existence of dark matter when they observed the rotation of stars around galaxies was far too fast, given the amount of matter they could see. We now know roughly 85 percent of the mass in the universe is dark matter that’s completely invisible to humans. Despite knowing dark matter is out there, however, scientists still don’t really know where it comes from.
According to Nikitin’s research, if black holes contained Planck cores, they could be a potential source of dark matter. His study suggests dark stars could continuously emit a stream of particles in the form of dark matter—enough to explain the rapid rotation of stars around galaxies.
“One more fascinating possibility is that the dark matter is composed of known particles, placed in an unusual condition,” Nikitin says.
The particles could be as simple as particles of light, or photons, that have been redshifted to wavelengths that are so wide, they would be virtually invisible to modern radio telescopes, he says. “It is an extremely large wavelength, about 4 light days, 16 times the Sun-Pluto distance.”
The energy of these photons would be exceedingly small, but they could be abundant enough in number to explain the unusual motion of stars around their galaxies.
Nikitin also says his theory might explain another unsolved mystery of the cosmos: the origin of fast radio bursts (FRB).
Astronomers first discovered these powerful, short-lived bursts of radio waves in 2007, but their origin and nature remains hidden to scientists. If an object such as an asteroid fell into a Planck core, Nitkin says, a flash of high-energy light waves could be released. The dark star’s powerful gravity would redshift the light, creating an apparent FRB detectable on Earth.
Although dark stars could help solve two of the universe’s biggest mysteries, there’s still a mountain of observational evidence Nitkin’s idea would need to explain to replace the widely accepted theory of black holes. His theory does, however, show that out-of-the-box thinking can provide creative solutions to seemingly impossible problems.
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