NASA JPL composite image of Earth and Moon.
     
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September 24, 2017
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What Will the Solar System Look Like Afterward?

It is of purely academic interest, but here it is anyway.

Perhaps some day, visitors from another world will explore our solar system and find something odd. They'll find Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. They'll find comets and asteroids and icy Kuiper belt objects in the far reaches of our solar system. But nothing like a habitable world.

In between the orbits of Venus and Mars, they'll find something that may be new to their science: A small Black Hole more massive than Venus as massive as a typical habitable planet in a nearly perfectly circular orbit, just like a planet. It will have a small planet orbiting around it the one we once called the Moon.

They might find the remains of civilization in space near this tiny Black Hole. Communications satellites will orbit around it. Imaging satellites of a sort that could monitor weather will peer down upon the great Nothing.

Yes, satellites and the Moon will continue orbiting the Black Hole "forever." Despite what you may have read about the inexorable destruction wrought by Black Holes, they can only absorb things that actually fall into them. The gravitational field of this Black Hole will be no stronger than that of the earth today. It's just that its mass will be so concentrated into a volume less than that of a house that its gravitational field at its event horizon will be destructively powerful. Out at the distance where satellites orbit, some 8,000 to 23,000 miles away from the Black Hole, the satellites will orbit just as they do now. In fact, today's low-earth-orbit satellites, including the International Space Station, which are normally affected by atmospheric drag and need a boost now and then, will be able to orbit the Black Hole "forever," since there will be no more atmosphere to drag them down.

Perhaps the visitors who find this bizarre remnant of our civilization will be wise enough to figure out what happened to us. Perhaps they will be wise enough to prevent it happening to themselves.

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