Do you know that exactly 7.5 billion light-years from Earth are two black holes that are approximately the size of Long Island?
Well, the news is that they spun around each other several times per second and smashed into a catastrophic explosion that literally sent shockwaves through the entire Universe.
In usual circumstances, this would have a deadly impact all over, but this violent union simply sent out a flare of light! This is an interesting piece of information because black holes are notorious for not producing any light at all. In fact, they’re so dense and massive that nothing can escape their gravitational pull. So, what exactly happened?
It seems like the black holes may have been in the right place at the right time. Research shows that when they did the celestial dance, they were situated inside a huge disc of gas and dust. This disc spans additional light-years and is surrounded by a third black hole – which is massive and located at the centre of the galaxy. So, basically, when the two black holes were dueling, their union created some sort of a shock wave that slammed into the surrounding gas and dirt. Due to this, the nearby material got heated and caused a dim glow that is more than the usual – and researchers from Earth just barely managed to spot it.
“If it’s two black holes merging, you don’t expect to see anything. But because the black holes are surrounded by this stuff, by this accretion disc, that’s different.” – said Matt Graham, a research professor of astronomy at Caltech and lead author of the study.
This flare can potentially aid researchers in learning more about the galaxy and find out how massive the black hole at the centre actually is. “It will actually allow us to directly probe these disks around supermassive black holes in ways that we couldn’t do before.”
Another way this information could help astronomers is that is it can give a clue to identify how far away galaxies form. It can also tell them if there are strange objects floating around the supermassive black holes.
“It’s not just a large gas disc falling into a supermassive black hole. You’ve got stars and black holes in there doing things as well.”
Also, this strange union might be the only way we could actually see the merging of black holes. This information will definitely enhance their understanding of the cosmos.
“We actually now have this probe, both from the electromagnetic signature, and the gravitational wave — both of which provide information. It’s a brand new, totally different tool for studying how galaxies got to be the way they are.”