Quasi-stars: What will happen if they enter our solar system?

One of the most mysterious entities in the universe, Quasi-stars have perplexed astronomers for years over their existence. But what would happen if it ever entered our solar system? Find out.

| Updated on: Dec 16 2022, 14:40 IST
Sickening! From light to darkness, DEATH of a star is the birth of a Black Hole!
black hole
1/5 What is a Black Hole? According to NASA, a black hole is an astronomical object with a gravitational pull so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape it. A black hole’s “surface,” called its event horizon, defines the boundary where the velocity needed to escape exceeds the speed of light, which is the speed limit of the cosmos. Matter and radiation fall in, but they can’t get out. (NASA)
Black hole
2/5 Classes of black holes: Two main classes of black holes have been extensively observed. Stellar-mass black holes with three to dozens of times the Sun’s mass are spread throughout our Milky Way galaxy, while supermassive monsters weighing 100,000 to billions of solar masses are found in the centers of most big galaxies, ours included. (AP)
Black hole
3/5 How are black holes birthed? A stellar-mass black hole formation happens when a star with more than 20 solar masses exhausts the nuclear fuel in its core and collapses under its own weight. The collapse triggers a supernova explosion that blows off the star’s outer layers. But if the crushed core contains more than about three times the Sun’s mass, no known force can stop its collapse and the birth of of a black hole. The origin of supermassive black holes is poorly understood, but we know they exist from the very earliest days of a galaxy’s lifetime. Once born, black holes can grow by accreting matter that falls into them, including gas stripped from neighboring stars and even other black holes. (NASA)
image caption
4/5 First image of black hole: In 2019, astronomers using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — an international collaboration that networked eight ground-based radio telescopes into a single Earth-size dish — captured an image of a black hole for the first time. It appears as a dark circle silhouetted by an orbiting disk of hot, glowing matter. The supermassive black hole is located at the heart of a galaxy called M87, located about 55 million light-years away, and weighs more than 6 billion solar masses. Its event horizon extends so far it could encompass much of our solar system out to well beyond the planets. (Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration)
image caption
5/5 Studying black holes: Astronomers have been studying black holes through the various forms of light they emit for decades. Although light can’t escape a black hole’s event horizon, the enormous tidal forces in its vicinity cause nearby matter to heat up to millions of degrees and emit radio waves and X-rays. Some of the material orbiting even closer to the event horizon may be hurled out, forming jets of particles moving near the speed of light that emit radio, X-rays and gamma rays. Jets from supermassive black holes can extend hundreds of thousands of light-years into space. NASA’s Hubble, Chandra, Swift, NuSTAR, and NICER space telescopes, as well as other missions, continue to take the measure of black holes and their environments. (NASA)
Quasi star
View all Images
Know all about Quasi-stars and know how they could impact the solar system if they ever entered this space. (Representative Photo) (April Hobart, CXC)

It is only when you look deep into space is when you realize how infinitely vast it is and how astoundingly large objects it carries within it. We all know that compared to the outer planets and the Sun, the size of Earth becomes insignificantly small. But even our Sun, which is the largest celestial body in the solar system, feels small when compared to some of the larger stars. For example, UY Scuti is approximately 1700 times larger than the Sun. But even these stars feel as big as a pebble when compared to the mythical quasi-star. So, what are they, how do they form and what can happen if they ever enter our solar system? Read on.

What are quasi stars and how do they form

In the early days of the universe, when there were not multiple galaxies and very few stars, there existed stars which were extremely large in size. Known as protostars, the lower estimate of these stars' size are approximately at 10 billion kilometers or around 7,000 times the size of the Sun. Due to this massive size, the core of these stars collapses and creates a supernova. But instead of exploding externally, the outer layer compresses the explosion and turns it into a black hole. As a result, every quasi-star consists a black hole at its center.

Instead of relying on nuclear fusion for energy, quasi-stars gain energy from the material falling into a black hole at its core. The maximum lifespan of a quasi-star is 4 million years after which the black hole reaches ten thousand solar masses and turns the quasi-star into a supermassive black hole.

What if a quasi-star enters the solar system

Although the scenario is entirely hypothetical as it is believed that protostars such as quasi-stars do not exist anymore, it is interesting to understand how a catastrophic event like that might affect our nearby space.

As soon as a quasi-star enters the solar system, it will pull planets and all other celestial objects in the solar system out of their orbit. As that happens, the Earth would be subjected to hundreds of violent asteroid strikes. This would happen before the quasi-star could even enter the solar system entirely.

As it does, it would quickly engulf Pluto and planets like Neptune and Uranus. Around that time, the temperature and luminosity on Earth would also increase significantly. Finally, the star would keep moving inwards till it engulfs the Earth itself. The only silver lining would be that all life on Earth would already be extinct by that point due to extremely high temperatures and unlivable conditions.

Follow HT Tech for the latest tech news and reviews , also keep up with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google News, and Instagram. For our latest videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

First Published Date: 16 Dec, 14:39 IST
keep up with tech