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Scientists Observe Two Supermassive Black Holes Merging

It is speculated that many galaxies in the cosmos have a black hole at their center; counting our home, the Milky Way. Occasionally, two galaxies will get a little too close by for ease and unite together. Astrophysicists at the University of Maryland have seen one of these galaxy unions and consider that, as an outcome, they have witnessed one of the few examples of two supermassive black holes sealed in orbit around each other.  Suvi Gezari, co-author of the recent study issuedin Astrophysical Journal Letters, stated that, “We believe we have observed two supermassive black holes in closer proximity than ever before.”  The possibility of a supermassive black hole union is made more convincing by the presence of a pulsating quasar found in the middle of the galaxy merger. Black holes, due to their hgue mass and gravitational attraction, voraciously swallow up anything and everything that roams in their path. Quasars arise from all this heat and acceleration of matter from the black hole unification.
Image credit: NASA. Image shows an artist's rendition of two black holes caught in a gravitational dance.

The quasar in question, PSO J334.2028+01.4075, vivifies and dims like a flashing alert, but instead of a period of seconds, it has a period of almost 542 days (the time it takes for a quasar to go from its brightest glare to its darkest and back to the brightest again). This quasar is projected to surround a black hole with a mass around 10 billion times higher than the mass of our sun.  Tingting Liu, UMD astronomy graduate student and also the paper’s first author said, “The discovery of a compact binary candidate supermassive black hole system like PSO J334.2028+01.4075, which appears to be at such close orbital separation, adds to our limited knowledge of the end stages of the merger between supermassive black holes.”

The binary black hole couple are gravitationally bound to each other, which may result into a thrilling observations in the future. Especially, the scientists hope to finally shed some light on something called ‘The FinalParsec Problem.' The ending stages of a black hole collision are presently unknown; theoretical models have trouble forecasting what this galactic event would look like.

Gezari speculated further on the upcoming of this union: “This pair of black holes may be so close together that they are emitting gravitational waves, which were predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.” We have yet to discover gravitational waves—wrinkles in space-time that twist the path of light traveling through the cosmos, like the light produced from quasar PSO J334.2028+01.4075. The interpretations of this epic galaxy union could offer valuable data to further this research.

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