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Monster Black Holes, Cool

from SPACE

Monster Black Holes Spotted Orbiting Each Other for 1st Time Ever

By Charles Q. Choi

Monster Black Holes Spotted Orbiting Each Other for 1st Time EverArtist’s conception of two supermassive black holes orbiting each other at the center of galaxy 0402+379, located 750 million light-years from Earth.
Credit: Josh Valenzuela/University of New Mexico

For the first time ever, scientists have directly spotted a pair of supermassive black holes orbiting each other, a new study suggests.

This orbital motion — which was noted in observations made over the course of a dozen years — may be the smallest-ever movement detected of an object across the sky, the researchers said.

Supermassive black holes harbor millions to billions of times the mass of Earth’s sun and form the hearts of most, if not all, large galaxies. Much remains uncertain about how these giant black holes grow and influence the universe around them. [Images: Black Holes of the Universe]

One way to gain insights on black hole growth is to look at black holes on the verge of merging with one another. As such, researchers have analyzed the center of a giant elliptical galaxy called 0402+379, which is located about 750 million light-years from Earth. In 2006, scientists found that the galaxy’s core apparently holds two supermassive black holes.

Judging by the gravitational effects these black holes had on their surroundings, the two behemoths harbor a combined mass about 15 billion times that of the sun, the researchers said. It remains uncertain just how big each black hole is, but the limited data that astronomers currently have suggest that one of the black holes might be two or even four times bigger than the other, said study co-author Roger Romani, an astrophysicist at Stanford University.

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Posted on July 10, 2017 by Editor

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