Black hole duo could be creating ripples in fabric of space-time

March 5th, 2009 - 3:20 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic

Washington, March 5 (ANI): Astronomers have suggested that two newfound black holes on the verge of crashing into each other could be creating ripples in the fabric of space-time.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the two supermassive black holes orbit each other about once a century, separated by just a third of a light-year, and they seem to be getting closer.

Such systems should be relatively common, but so far they have proven elusive, said study co-author Todd Boroson of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona.

We believe that galaxies grow primarily by merging with other galaxies, he explained. If you have a black hole in the center of each, youd expect to find systems where you have two black holes that gradually merge, he added.

If confirmed, scientists will likely want to study this system intensely to figure out why they havent seen others like it.

The binary black holes also could provide a unique environment to test aspects of Einsteins theory of general relativity, astronomers note.

The theory predicts that compact, massive bodies, such as black holes orbiting one another, should produce ripples in space-time that move at the speed of light.

Boroson and colleague Tod Lauer spotted the newfound binary black holes by examining data on more than 17,000 quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a major mapping project that has so far imaged more than a quarter of the cosmos.

Each quasar is thought to represent a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy. Quasars are extremely bright because matter gets superheated as it falls into a black hole, sending out huge amounts of energy.

But, one quasar in the survey displayed two distinct sets of energy emissions moving at different speeds.

The astronomers interpreted this to be two black holes spinning around each other.

According to Einsteins theory, such a system might be producing an effect called gravitational radiation, noted Jon Miller of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Although cosmologists have yet to see the effect directly, they think gravitational radiation propagates across the universe like waves on the surface of a puddle and remains unchanged as it travels.

Because the ripples reach us in an unaltered state, their strength, direction, and frequency could tell us more about the distant, dramatic events that created them, such as supernovae and black hole mergers.

Boroson said that the endgame story of black hole pairs like this one is to merge into a single massive object. (ANI)

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