Astronomers have long thought that at the center of every galaxy there is a supermassive black hole. Therefore, they have been searching throughout the cosmos for evidence of these are at the centers of every galaxy, including the one in which the Earth resides, the Milky Way Galaxy. Recently, astronomers have found two galaxies that are on the verge of merging and they have discovered what they call a binary black hole.
As the name infers, a binary black hole is a system, just like a binary star system, that is composed of two of the same entities, in the case, black holes. In the system, the two black holes orbit around each other. Considering every galaxy only has at most one black hole, this binary system is evidence of a galactic merger, according to scientists. Even though only a few different binary black hole systems have ever been discovered, a team of astronomers at the University of Maryland now believe that they have unearthed undeniable evidence of binary black hole systems.
In a study published in the latest issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Suvi Gezari, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, who also co-authored the new study, stated her team has, “two supermassive black holes in closer proximity than ever before.” She stated the two entities in the binary black hole system are orbiting so close to each other that they are giving off gravitational waves. This effect was predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
The theory of general relatively is the geometric curvature of space-time which gravity causes. Moreover, it is directly related to the matter and energy present in a certain location. According to scientists, it is theorized that gravitational waves, which are made up of the theorized particles known as gravitons, which are force carrying particles, are the arbiters of the transportation of energy in the form of gravitation radiation. This is nearly congruent to the notion that electromagnetic waves transport electromagnetic waves. The reason why the discovery of the binary black hole system is important to this notion of gravitational waves is because they are said to be the most powerful known sources of gravitational waves.
Gezari and her team discovered the binary black hole system by finding a quasar, a super luminous aftermath of a star’s core. The quasar that was used is PSO J334.2028+01.4075. A quasar is also a very compact region at the very middle of a galaxy, which is heated to such a temperature with the accretion of matter by its nearby black hole that it emits unbelievable amounts of energy.
According to the study, this quasar is at the center of a supermassive black hole that is around 10 billion times the mass of the Sun. By measuring the fluctuations in the light of the quasar and the spectrum of light wavelengths that is gives off, the researchers believe that the black hole near the quasar is orbiting another supermassive black hole in a galaxy nearby, thus creating the binary black hole system.
Although this new study unearths even more information about binary black hole systems, it is still unclear whether astronomers will be able to see the merger of two separate black holes. Gezari stated of they observe this action, they will be able to, “solve the final parsec problem.” This factor refers to what a galactic merger may look like as current theoretical models break down just beyond the event horizon.
By Alex Lemieux
Photo by ESO/L. Calçada – Flickr License