It is about nine billion light-years away, weighs a hundred million times more than our Sun, and is separated by a “slight” distance. Astronomers from several different research centers have discovered a binary system of supermassive black holes. This is the second discovery of its kind in the history of space research.
A team of scientists from Purdue University, NASA and other institutions have discovered a new system of supermassive black holes. This is the second such discovery in the history of astronomical observations. Each of the black holes may have a mass similar to 100 million solar masses (our star today is estimated to weigh 1.9884 trillion kilograms). The system is 8.8 billion light-years away from our planet.
Evidence that the system may be a binary comes from observations of radio telescopes on Earth. Black holes do not emit light, but their gravity can collect disks of hot gas around them and eject some of this material into space. So-called jets, or jets of energy, can span millions of light-years. Analyzes of wave propagation from one black hole have led scientists to speculate that jets heading toward Earth are brighter than those facing the other.
Upon closer examination, astronomers found that this regular spectral difference was due to the presence of the second black hole.
To make sure the results of the observations were not accidental or short-lived, the team had to look at studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. Only then did they become convinced that they were right.
Someday they might
The biggest surprise for scientists was the fact that both black holes orbit each other at a not very large distance, ranging from 200 to 2000 astronomical units (AU is the unit that determines the distance between the Earth and the Sun). Astronomers estimate that this distance is at least 10 times shorter than the previously discovered pair of black holes.
Their proximity is very important as they are expected to eventually fuse. This event can release a huge amount of energy in the form of gravitational waves that propagate in all directions.
The scientists explained that their discovery is very important because it brings us one step closer to understanding the processes that led to the formation of galaxies and what led to the presence of massive black holes in their centers.
Main image source: Caltech/R. Wholesaling (IPAC)
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