Scientists just discovered two supermassive black holes, each with a mass of more than 800 million suns. And they're on a collision course with each other.
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Supermassive black holes arehuge. The Milky Ways own supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*, is approximately 4 million times the mass of our sun. And the black holes scientists just discovered are way, way larger.
Its the first time such massive black holes have been spotted this close together (approximately 1,400 light years apart), and it could help scientists detect a hum of gravitational background noise.
As the two supermassive black holes draw closer together in a death spiral, the black holes will begin sending gravitational waves rippling through spacetime. Those cosmic ripples will join the as-yet-undetected background noise of gravitational waves from other supermassive black holes.
This historical collision will produce some waves more than 1 million times louder than those detected by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory).
Detecting the gravitational wave background will help resolve some of the biggest unknowns in astronomy, such as how often galaxies merge and whether supermassive black hole pairs merge at all or become stuck in a near-endless waltz around one another.
Learn more about this potentially monumental moment on this episode of Elements.
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We FINALLY Know What a Black Hole Looks Like
Princeton scientists spot two supermassive black holes on collision course with each other
"Astronomers have discovered a distant pair of titanic black holes on a collision course. Each black holes mass is more than 800 million times that of our sun. As the two gradually draw closer together in a death spiral, they will begin sending gravitational waves rippling through space-time."
Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein's Prediction
"Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed."
Supermassive Black Hole Discovery Could Help Answer The Final Parsec Problem
"Once supermassive black holes get close enough to each other, they stop swapping gas and stars and stealing each others energy and everything slows right down. The final parsec problem theory suggests that all black hole binaries will stall out at around a parsec apart (3.2 light years) and time will stretch out into as-good-as-infinity."
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