Friday, September 2, 2022

Collision between supermassive black holes could occur in 3 years

A galaxy about a billion light-years away could harbor a binary system of supermassive black holes at its core — and they would be about to collide. In a new study, astronomers estimate that the collision could occur three years from now, or less than the blink of an eye on cosmic scales.

 Studies on the galaxy SDSS J1430+2303 published earlier this year described strange behavior at its core: oscillations that got shorter and shorter between a year and a month. At the time, it was still not known what exactly was going on there.

Now, a new paper claims that this behavior could be caused by a binary system of supermassive black holes. They would be very close together, orbiting around a common center in a spiral, destined to collide to become a single black hole.

To reach this conclusion, they observed X-ray emissions from SDSS J1430+2303 over a period of 200 days. The team, led by Liming Dou of Guangzhou University in China, found variations and a type of emission associated with iron falling into a black hole.

According to the study, this emission may be associated with binary supermassive black holes at the center of the galaxy. However, the team was unable to measure the characteristics of the duo.

All galaxies appear to have a supermassive black hole at their cores, but no one is quite sure how they formed. Some scientists speculate that they are the result of a collision between several smaller black holes, and perhaps the galaxy SDSS J1430+2303 is close to giving us a clue.

The combined mass of the two black holes at the center of SDSS J1430+2303 would be approximately 200 million suns. As they would be so close, a spiral into a cataclysmic encounter in the galactic core would be inevitable. The study authors' calculation suggests an impact just three years from now.

If these predictions are correct, this could be the first chance we'll witness a collision between supermassive black holes, something we don't even know how it occurs . If detected, this impact could provide valuable information for astronomical models and simulations about the evolution of galaxies.

 Unfortunately, if this collision were to occur within three years, current instruments would not be able to detect it through gravitational waves. That's because it would be an event of enormous proportions, producing waves far below the frequency detectable by gravitational wave observatories.

On the other hand, astronomers hope that the collision, if it occurs, will result in an explosion visible across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including visible light. But we still don't know if that's what's happening at the heart of J1429+2303, so scientists will keep an eye out.

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