Colliding Black Holes: How Can We Tell The Dancers From The Dance?

By | October 26, 2017

In secluded secret, the dark beasts lie in wait, hiding hungrily in the mysterious dark hearts of most, if not all, large galaxies–and in the centers of some of the smaller ones, as well. Surrounded by bright, swirling accretion disks composed of glaring gas, these supermassive black holes wait for their terrible feast–a wayward star that has wandered too close to their gravitational snatching claws, or a floating cloud of unfortunate gas. Supermassive black holes can weigh as much as billions of times more than our Sun, and they are certainly some of the strangest and most bewildering inhabitants of the Cosmos. In September 2015, a team of astronomers announced their findings that a dark duo of dancing black holes, that are both tied together in a strange gravitational embrace, are destined to merge together as a result of their intricate ballet. Both dark dancers haunt the incredible heart of a distant galaxy, from which the team of astronomers detected the most compelling confirmation yet for the real existence of this merging duo–and have discovered new details about a cyclical and indisputably weird light signal that the two macabre dancers emit.

The team of astronomers used data derived from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to detect the candidate black hole couple, called PG 1302-102. PG 1302-102 was first discovered early in 2015 by astronomers using ground-based telescopes. The black hole dancing duo are the tightest orbiting couple spotted so far, with a separation that is not much wider than the diameter of our Solar System. The two strange gravitational beasts are predicted to collide together and then merge in less than a million years. This collision is expected to trigger an enormous blast with the incredible power of 100 million supernovae.

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