Binary Supermassive Black Hole System Discovered

Two supermassive black holes orbit one another in a binary system. They are 10 times closer to each other than the black holes in the only other known supermassive binary black hole system. Photo credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Binary Supermassive Black Hole System Discovered

A research team formed by scientists working at Purdue University and other institutions reports that the binary supermassive black hole system has been discovered. It is known that such a system has only been discovered once before. Each of these two orbiting black holes probably weighs 100 million Suns. A huge jet of matter comes out of one of the black holes at very close to the speed of light. The system is so far away that the light seen today was emitted 8.8 billion years ago.

The two are only 100 AU to 2,000 AU from each other (one Astronomical Unit is the distance from the Earth to the Sun). This distance of black holes is at least 10 times closer than any other known supermassive binary black hole system.

This proximity of black holes is important because such systems are expected to eventually merge. This event, which will emit a huge amount of energy in the form of gravitational waves, will create ripples in space (and vibrations in matter) going in all directions.

Finding such systems is also important for understanding the formation process of galaxies and how supermassive black holes come to the center of galaxies. The study was published last month in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Source: Purdue University.

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