Are we about to witness a merger of supermassive black holes?

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Edited Hubble Space Telescope (created by NASA) montage of galaxies with growing black holes due to galaxy collisions, by Stuart Rankin – CC 4.0 license (cropped)

A galaxy featuring a pair of supermassive black holes could be about to get a pretty strong wake-up call, as the titanic entities will coil and merge in just months, with an expression of energy that will literally shake the world. entire universe.

This big bang could be the first of its kind that scientists will be able to witness, and the mere mention of a prediction that we know when and where such an event would take place has scientists around the world racing to make sure the telescope has time. to try and catch a glimpse of x-rays, gamma rays and radio waves.

Most galaxies probably have supermassive black holes at their centers, but scientists don’t know how they get so big. One theory is that they periodically suck in material that causes them to grow and glow, becoming Active Galactic Nuclei or AGNs. Another theory is that when two galaxies collide, the black holes at their center go on a collision course that causes them to merge, bringing them to supermassive size.

Mergers would bring black holes too close together for their light to be separated. Instead, they are detected either by gravitational waves in observatories like LIGOor optically through periodic oscillations in the energy and heat signatures emitted into surrounding matter by the pair as they approach each other.

Ning Jiang of the University of Science and Technology of China was operating a survey telescope from the Zwicky Transient Facility in California where he and his team came across data that appeared to be from an AGN with two such black holes, in which the oscillations during a 3-year observation period increased from 1 year to 3 months, suggesting that within 100 days the pair of black holes would marry.

“If the interpretation is true, a coordinated, multi-band electromagnetic campaign should be planned for this first binary [supermassive black hole] melting event observed in human history,” the authors write. in their diary which has yet to be peer reviewed – and some reviewers are skeptical.

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Just wait and see

Luckily for everyone involved and impacted by this extremely bold prediction, the usual waiting periods attributed to astronomical research are much shorter, as black hole mergers could be 100-300 days or even less.

If a merger takes place, accompanied by a massive burst of light along the electromagnetic spectrum, there will be a shower of neutrino particles, which can be detected at the IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole, and a massive ripple in the fabric of space and time called gravitational wave.

Bold claims require bold evidence, and Scientific journal had other opinions from scientists who believe the evidence is merely circumstantial.

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Theorist Daniel D’Orazio of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen points out that the galaxy, recorded as SDSSJ1430+2303, lacked the waning oscillations in its light curve in the years before Jiang began observing it. Prior to this, there were constant emissions of energy into the surrounding matter, suggesting that this is simply a black hole binary galaxy and nothing more.

However, on September 14, 2015, the LIGO-Virgo collaborations announced the first observation of gravitational waves from a signal of two black holes with masses of 29 and 36 solar masses merging around 1.3 billion years ago. -light. In the last split second of the merger, it released more than 50 times the power of all the stars in the observable universe combined.

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This merger would be much larger. Rather than containing 36 times the mass of the sun, they would contain the mass of hundreds of millions of suns – and no one can say for sure what the observable effect would be in this case.

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