Astronomers just spotted two supermassive black holes on a collision course

PROBLEM Scientists are unsure if the ‘the final parsec problem will come into effect

PROBLEM Scientists are unsure if the ‘the final parsec problem will come into effect

With an inconceivable amount of matter packed into nearly infinitely small space, black holes boast such unimaginably powerful gravitational fields nothing, even light, can escape.

Astronomers have detected two supermassive black holes, each more than 800 million times more massive than our sun, that are headed for collision.

Scientist Chiara Mingarelli, from the Flatiron Institute's Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York City, explained that supermassive black hole pairs generate the loudest gravitational waves in the universe.

"Gravitational waves from supermassive black hole pairs are a million times louder than those detected by LIGO".

In the present-day universe, the black holes are already emitting these gravitational waves, but even at light speed the waves will reach Earth for billions of years.

Although supermassive black holes can't be directly seen through optical telescope, they are surrounded by bright clumps of luminous stars and warm gas drawn in by their huge gravitational pull. When the black holes finally meet, nobody knows what will happen, and astronomers can only guess what the result might be. Supermassive black holes are not directly visible through an optical telescope, but these are surrounded by clumps of bright stars and warm gas.

The black holes, each of which has a mass more than 800,000,000 times that of our own Sun, could either merge together or or freeze a short distance from each other in a freakish phenomenon that astronomers call "the final parsec problem".

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The pair of colliding black holes is now observed to be 430 parsecs apart. It should be noted that astronomers were not aware of supermassive black hole collision until now, and this new development will help humans to know more about the aftermath of these crashes.

This slowdown lasts almost indefinitely and is known as the final parsec problem.

Alternatively, the bodies could collide causing a colossal release of gravitational waves. "For everyone in black hole physics, observationally this is a long-standing puzzle that we need to solve".

Those mysterious cosmic ripples will join the as-yet-undetected background noise of gravitational waves from other supermassive black holes. As the two gradually draw closer together in a cosmic death spiral, they will begin sending gravitational waves rippling through space-time. The gravitational waves the two black holes generate prior to collision already dwarf those previously detected from the collision of small black holes and neutron stars. However, the same is true for the reverse scenario.

"If the gravitational wave background is not detected this could indicate that supermassive black holes merge only over extremely long timescales, remaining as close separation binaries for many Hubble times, the so-called 'final-parsec problem, '" write the researchers.

For now, as is often the case, we continue to point our eyes to the cosmos and hunt.

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