Astronomers reported that they found a couple of supermassive black holes that were dangerously closely orbiting one another.
A recent study also suggests that when the duo will collide (about 100,000 years from now on), the event would send ripple effects across the space-time fabric as Albert Einstein predicted nearly 100 years ago.
The two supermassive black holes are located in Virgo constellation, more than 3.5 billion light years away, but the distance between the two space objects is now of a light-week. This makes them the closest orbiting black holes to date and certain candidates for a relatively immediate collision.
Zoltan Haiman, lead author of the research and Columbia University researcher, said that the two black holes are by far the closest on their way to certain doom. Haiman’s team said that black hole mergers could help scientists test Einstein’s theory on gravitational waves. But in this case they would have to wait 100,000 years to see that happen.
Nearly every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its core, scientists noted. These space objects are so dense that they entrap light. Additionally, they are very active as they continue to engulf surrounding material including stars, galaxies and even smaller black holes.
Supermassive black holes that are on the verge of colliding are signaled by active quasars. Quasars are beacons of light in the dark empty space that emit light at regular intervals. In fact, that light is emitted by the supermassive black holes when they get closer to one another.
Matthew Graham, a scientist at the California Institute of Technology, and his team analyzed 270,000 quasars in search for those with rhythmic light signals. The most intriguing of those quasars was PG 1302-102, which mysteriously becomes brighter by 14 percent every five years.
Using a special algorithm, the research team has learned that the pair of black holes in PG 1302-102 were a mere light-week apart. Researchers also used a doppler effect-based theory to find whether the smaller black hole would get brighter as it entered our planet’s line of sight. If the theory was correct, the team expected to find a rise in UV emissions of the quasar every five years, which in fact they did.
Past studies had revealed that the flickering effect of quasars might be generated by a discontinuity in the axis of one of the black holes or warps in the debris disk around the pair.
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