Earlier this years, astronomers observed that two black holes were en route for head-on collision, which could potentially have catastrophic effects.
In a new study, scientists at the Columbia University in the City of New York, found that the two massive back holes in the Virgo constellation were an approximate light-week apart, which was much closes that it had initially been established.
The collision would be so powerful that it would send gravitational waves through the space–time continuum. The black holes are 3.5 billion lights away from Earth. Scientists believe that they could give them some insight on the growth of galaxies and the expansion of the universe itself.
Black holes can normally be found at the centre of a massive galaxy, such as the Milky Way. Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted that they would grow bigger and bigger over time, reaching a mass billions time larger than the sun. Black holes are able to ‘devour’ amongst others: stars, planets, and other black holes.
“This is the closest we’ve come to observing two black holes on their way to a massive collision. Watching this process reach its culmination can tell us whether black holes and galaxies grow at the same rate, and ultimately test a fundamental property of space-time: its ability to carry vibrations called gravitational waves, produced in the last, most violent, stage of the merger,” said Zoltán Haiman, a professor of astronomy at the Department of Astronomy, Columbia University.
Last winter, the black holes were discovered by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. They noticed the quasars or quasi-stellar radio sources (brightest and most distant star-like objects) that were produced by black holes. Normally, quasars light up seldom, but when two black holes are on the verge of collision, they illuminate at regular intervals.
Professor Haiman and his team created a model in order to better understand the constant signal coming from the quasars. In the study they suggested that the light is coming from a disk of gas that encloses the smaller black hole.
They found that the disks and the black holes both rotate at high speeds and, as the light approaches the Earth, it gets brighter every five years because of the Doppler Effect. This woks in the same manner as a siren that gets more high-pitched and louder as it approaches the bystanders.
The good news is that it will take at least another 100,000 years until the two black holes meet, astrophysicists said.
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