Detectable seismic consequences of the interaction of A primordial black hole with Earth

Yang Luo, Shravan Hanasoge, Jeroen Tromp, Frans Pretorius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Galaxies observed today are likely to have evolved from density perturbations in the early universe. Perturbations that exceeded some critical threshold are conjectured to have undergone gravitational collapse to form primordial black holes (PBHs) at a range of masses. Such PBHs serve as candidates for cold dark matter, and their detection would shed light on conditions in the early universe. Here, we propose a mechanism to search for transits of PBHs through/nearby Earth by studying the associated seismic waves. Using a spectral-element method, we simulate and visualize this seismic wave field in Earth's interior. We predict the emergence of two unique signatures, namely, a wave that would arrive almost simultaneously everywhere on Earth's free surface and the excitation of unusual spheroidal modes with a characteristic frequency spacing in free oscillation spectra. These qualitative characteristics are unaffected by the speed or proximity of the PBH trajectory. The seismic energy deposited by a proximal M PBH = 1015 g PBH is comparable to a magnitude M w = 4 earthquake. The non-seismic collateral damage due to the actual impact of such small PBHs with Earth would be negligible. Unfortunately, the expected collision rate is very low even if PBHs constituted all of dark matter, at 10-7 yr-1, and since the rate scales as 1/M PBH, fortunately encounters with larger, Earth-threatening PBHs are exceedingly unlikely. However, the rate at which non-colliding close encounters of PBHs could be detected by seismic activity alone is roughly two orders of magnitude larger - that is once every hundred thousand years - than the direct collision rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 20 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Earth
  • black hole physics
  • dark matter
  • gravitation
  • methods: numerical
  • waves


Dive into the research topics of 'Detectable seismic consequences of the interaction of A primordial black hole with Earth'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this