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According to an Italian astronomer, supermassive black holes are millions and billions of times greater in mass than the Sun and grow huge by swallowing other black holes.
Fabio Pacucci, a Yale Postdoctoral Associate, explains through an animated TED-Ed video that is titled "Could the Earth be swallowed by a black hole?" how a supermassive black hole works as a "cosmic vacuum cleaner with infinite capacity", swallowing everything that comes in its way due to its immense gravitational field.
"Nothing, not even light, can move fast enough to escape a black hole's gravitational pull once it passes a certain boundary, known as the event horizon. The black hole is millions or billions of times greater than that of our Sun and has an event horizon that could span billion of kilometres", Pacucci details.
He also elaborated that if a stellar-mass black hole passes along Neptune, the orbit of the Earth would be significantly modified, "with dire results." However, these black holes aren't a big concern compared to the supermassive black holes that lie at the centre of galaxies.
"Our solar system is in a stable orbit around a supermassive black hole that resides at the centre of the Milky Way, at a safe distance of 25,000 light-years." This could change if our collide with each other, with the Earth thrown towards the galactic centre, close enough to the supermassive black hole and end up being sucked in.
"In fact, a collision with the Andromeda Galaxy is predicted to happen 4 billion years from now, which may not be great news for our home planet", he added.
Moreover, the astronomer said that the black holes aren't just "agents of destruction", but also play a key role in forming the galaxies.