2022-02-28

Astronomers have found that two supermassive black holes are developing towards a catastrophic collision

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Astronomers have found that two supermassive black holes are developing towards a catastrophic collision

A new study may change that. Researchers observing a supermassive black hole report that there are signs that it has a closely orbiting companion. This huge Duo – called Twins – surrounds each other about every two years.

If the research team is correct, the orbit diameter of this binary star is 1 / 10 to 1 / 100 of that of the only other known super massive binary stars, and the pair will merge in about 10000 years. This seems to be a long time, but it will take a total of about 100 million years for black holes of this size to start operating with each other and eventually come together. Therefore, the pair of black holes have completed more than 99% of the collision process.

Joseph Lazio and Michele vallisneri of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California conducted an in-depth discussion on the performance of supermassive black holes in binary systems and how to interpret radio data.

Astronomers have found that two supermassive black holes are developing towards a catastrophic collision(1)

The supermassive black hole may have a companion evidence from observations from radio telescopes on earth. Black holes do not emit light, but their gravity can gather hot gas disks around them and eject some of them into space. These jets can extend millions of light-years. Jets pointing to the earth look much brighter than jets pointing away from the earth. Astronomers call the supermassive black hole with its jet facing the earth a hot star, and a hot star named PKS 2131-021 is the core of this latest paper.

PKS 2131-021 is about 9 billion light-years away from the earth. It is one of 1800 hot stars that a team of researchers at the California Institute of technology in Pasadena has been monitoring with the Owens Valley Radio Observatory in Northern California for 13 years. But this particular hot star shows a strange behavior. Its brightness shows regular fluctuations, just as predictable as the ticking of a clock.

Researchers now believe that this regular change is the result of the second black hole pulling the first black hole, because they orbit each other about every two years. Each of the two black holes in PKS 2131-021 is estimated to be hundreds of millions of times the mass of our sun. To confirm this discovery, scientists will try to detect gravitational waves from the system – space ripples. In 2016, the scientific community announced the first detection of gravitational waves from black hole binaries.

In order to confirm that these oscillations are not random or the cause of temporary effects around black holes, the research team had to look beyond the 10-year (2008-2019) data of Owens observatory. After learning that two other radio telescopes also studied the system – the University of Michigan Radio Observatory (1980-2012) and haystack Observatory (1975-1983) – they mined additional data and found that it matched predictions about how the brightness of the hot star should change over time.

“This work demonstrates the importance of perseverance,” Lazio said. “It took 45 years of Radio Observation to produce this result. This is possible because small teams at different stations across the country collect data over and over again, month after month.”