A giant doorway to another universe may exist at the centre of the Milky Way, and it could be large enough to swallow spaceships whole.
This is according to a recent study which claims it would be possible to travel through a wormhole in a similar way to moving through the space-time tunnel in the film Interstellar.
Wormholes, allowing instantaneous travel between distant points in space and time, are allowed under Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.
But most scientists dismiss the idea of ever building one large and stable enough to pass through, and no natural examples have been detected.
The extraordinary new theory, published in the journal Annals of Physics, follows the discovery of what appears to be a super-massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.
According to the Italian authors, the black hole – a region of concentrated gravity that distorts space-time – may be a wormhole in disguise.
The scientists, who base their conclusion on complex mathematical models, say the portal could be constructed from dark matter.
This is invisible and mysterious material making up around 26 per cent of the universe.
The researchers combined the map of the dark matter in the Milky Way with the most recent Big Bang model to explain the universe.
‘What we get is that our galaxy could really contain one of these tunnels, and that the tunnel could even be the size of the galaxy itself,’ said Professor Paulo Salucci, from the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy.
‘But there’s more. We could even travel through this tunnel, since, based on our calculations, it could be navigable. Just like the one we’ve all seen in the recent film ‘Interstellar”.
He said the research was surprisingly close to what was depicted in director Christopher Nolan’s movie, for which theoretical physicist Kip Thorne provided technical assistance.
‘What we tried to do in our study was to solve the very equation that the astrophysicist ‘Murph’ was working on,’ said Prof Salucci. ‘Clearly we did it long before the film came out.’
Any wormholes existing in nature have previously been assumed to be microscopic rips in the fabric of space-time.
But the one possibly lying at the centre of the Milky Way would be large enough to swallow up a spaceship.
Professor Salucci added: ‘Obviously we’re not claiming that our galaxy is definitely a wormhole, but simply that, according to theoretical models, this hypothesis is a possibility.’
Other ‘spiral’ galaxies similar to the Milky Way – like its neighbour Andromeda – may also contain wormholes, the scientists believe.
Theoretically it might be possible to test the idea by comparing the Milky Way with a different type of nearby galaxy, such as one of the irregular Magellanic Clouds.
In their paper, the scientists write: ‘Our result is very important because it confirms the possible existence of wormholes in most of the spiral galaxies ..
‘Dark matter may supply the fuel for constructing and sustaining a wormhole.
‘Hence, wormholes could be found in nature and our study may encourage scientists to seek observational evidence for wormholes in the galactic halo region.’
The study follows similar research last year in which physicists at Cambridge University arguedthat some wormholes are capable of staying open long enough to send messages backwards and forwards through time.
‘My calculations showed that if a wormhole is very long compared to how wide it is, you can get negative energy created in the centre of the wormhole,’ said Professor Luke Butcher
‘It’s not quite the right sort to keep the wormhole stable – which is what I’d hoped – but it does mean the wormhole collapses very slowly’
The wormhole would be open just long enough, Dr Butcher suggests, to send a photon through to the centre.
Because the ends of a wormhole can exist at different points in time, if Professor Butcher’s theory proves correct, a message could be sent through time.