Two supermassive black holes were side by side, only 750 light-years apart
Black Hole BANQUET! Scientists discover two supermassive black holes dining side by side just 750 light-years apart
- Two supermassive black holes have been spotted dining side by side
- The pair simultaneously grow only 750 light-years apart
- Astronomers think they will eventually merge into a giant black hole
One black hole is mind-boggling enough — a region of space where gravity is so immense that nothing, not even light, can escape from it.
Now astronomers have discovered something even more remarkable: two black holes have been ‘spotted’ side by side.
The pair is simultaneously growing just 750 light-years apart — the closest scientists have ever observed — and will eventually merge into a giant black hole.
They were discovered by researchers using the ALMA telescope, the most powerful telescope for observing molecular gas and dust, which is located in the Atacama Desert.
One black hole is mind-boggling enough — a region of space where gravity is so immense that nothing, not even light, can escape from it. Now astronomers have discovered something even more remarkable: two black holes have been ‘spotted’ side by side
As the team looked at two galaxies merging in the constellation of Cancer, 500 million light-years from Earth, they saw something they “didn’t expect.”
They saw two glowing black holes, voraciously devouring the dust, gas and other material displaced by the merger, as if they were at a banquet.
Although the black holes are cosmologically close to each other, they will only merge in a few hundred million years.
Eventually they will begin to orbit each other, tightening the orbit as gas and stars pass between them.
The pair grows simultaneously just 750 light-years apart – the closest scientists have ever observed – and will eventually merge into a giant black hole
Eventually, the black holes will start producing gravitational waves that are much stronger than any waves previously detected, the researchers said, before colliding into one jumbo-sized black hole.
The findings also suggest that binary black holes and the merging galaxies they create are surprisingly common in the Universe.
Experts said using ALMA, which stands for Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, was a game changer and that finding two black holes so close together could pave the way for additional studies of the phenomenon.
Michael Koss, lead author of the study, is from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
He said: ‘ALMA is unique in that it can see through large columns of gas and dust and achieve very high spatial resolution to see things very close together.
“Our research has identified one of the closest pairs of black holes in a galaxy merger, and because we know that galaxy mergers are much more common in the distant Universe, these black hole binaries may also be much more common than previously thought.”
The results of the new research have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and presented at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.
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BLACK HOLES HAVE A GRAVITY SO STRONG THAT EVEN LIGHT CANNOT ESCAPE
Black holes are so dense and their gravitational pull is so strong that no form of radiation can escape them – not even light.
They act as intense sources of gravity that suck up dust and gas around them. Their intense gravity is believed to be what stars in galaxies revolve around.
How they are formed is still poorly understood. Astronomers believe they may form when a large cloud of gas up to 100,000 times larger than the sun collapses into a black hole.
Many of these black hole seeds then coalesce to form much larger supermassive black holes, which can be found at the center of every known massive galaxy.
Alternatively, a supermassive black hole seed could come from a giant star, about 100 times the mass of the sun, eventually forming into a black hole after running out of fuel and collapsing.
When these giant stars die, they also go “supernova,” a massive explosion that expels the matter from the star’s outer layers into deep space.
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