MAUNAKEA, Hawaii (KHON2) — The vastness of space has captivated scientists and writers for centuries. Black holes are an astronomical object that has a gravitation pull that is so strong that not even light can escape it.
The first person in modern history to propose that black holes exist was John Michell in 1783. Albert Einstein then “rediscovered” black holes in 1905. But, it was not until 1974 that humans observed a black hole in space by U.S. astronomers Bruce Balick and Robert Brown.
The Keck Observatory, located at Maunakea, announced that a team of astronomers have discovered something never before seen: two supermassive black holes feasting on the universe, together.
These two black holes are located in the UGC 4211 galaxy. Another thing that these two black holes have allowed astronomers to discover is that binary black holes and galaxy mergers are much more common than scientists had previously thought.
The two black holes are only 750 light years away from each other in the Cancer constellation, a very short distance in the grand scheme of the infinite universe.
These companions were located while scientists were studying nearby merging galaxies. Then, they saw that these two black holes were devouring the byproducts of the merger.
“Simulations suggested that most of the population of black hole binaries in nearby galaxies would be inactive because they are more common, not two growing black holes like we found,” said Michael Koss, a senior research scientist at Eureka Scientific and the lead author of the study.
So, if these black hole binaries are actually common, then astronomers said that this is a significant discovery in detecting future gravitation waves.
“There might be many pairs of growing supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies that we have not been able to identify so far. If this is the case, in the near future we will be observing frequent gravitational wave events caused by the mergers of these objects across the universe,” said Ezequiel Treister, an astronomer at Universidad Católica de Chile and a co-author of the research.
“All of these data together have given us a clearer picture of how galaxies such as our own turned out to be the way they are, and what they will become in the future,” said Treister. So far, scientists have mostly studied only the earliest stages of galaxy mergers.
Astronomers have found that our own Milky Way Galaxy is on the path to merging with the nearby Andromeda Galaxy, and this discovery provides a better understanding on how this merger will unfold.
“The Milky Way-Andromeda collision is in its very early stages and is predicted to occur
in about 4.5 billion years. What we’ve just studied is a source in the very final stage of
collision, so what we’re seeing presages that merger and also gives us insight into the
connection between black holes merging and growing and eventually producing
gravitational waves,” said Koss.