A Princeton-led team of astrophysicists has spotted a pair of supermassive black holes, roughly 2.5 billion light-years away, that are on a collision course (inset).
Astronomers don't have to wait much longer for their first glimpse of one of the biggest supermassive black holes collision in the cosmos.
The black holes described in this study are a whopping 2.5 billion light-years away from Earth, meaning that 2.5 billion years have passed since the two were in the state that we now see them in.
The black holes, each of which has a mass more than 800,000,000 times that of our own Sun, could either merge together or or freeze a short distance from each other in a freaky phenomenon that astronomers call "the final parsec problem". The two black holes will continue to get closer to one another sending out large ripples in space-time, known as gravitational waves, which will be detected again on Earth.
"This is an intriguing peek at a disc very close to a black hole, so close that the velocities and the intensity of the gravitational pull are affecting how we see the photons of light", explains Bianchi.
The two supermassive black holes are particularly interesting because they are approximately 2.5 billion light-years distant from Earth.
Indeed, even before the foreordained impact, the gravitational waves exuding from the supermassive dark opening pair will overshadow those recently recognized from the mergers of a lot littler dark gaps and neutron stars. When the astronomers swung Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, essentially the most advanced instrument on board the space telescope, they observed the supermassive black holes.
The merger of two black holes is the most powerful event in the Universe, releasing more power than the rest of the Universe combined. For its time in history, the galaxy harboring the newfound supermassive black hole pair "is basically the most luminous galaxy in the universe", Goulding says.
This puzzle is dubbed the "final-parsec problem".
It was also reported that it's a shame for astronomers that they don't have a clue whether black holes can merge or not.
But that's not the end of uncertainties for astronomers. Their discovery can help scientists estimate how many nearby supermassive black holes are emitting gravitational waves that we could detect right now. A single pulsar's rhythm might be disrupted by only a few hundred nanoseconds over a decade. The louder the background noise, the more massive the timing disruptions, and the quicker the detection will be made. What's more, the galaxy's core is shooting out two unusually colossal plumes of gas.
Goulding said, "Although supermassive black holes aren't directly visible through an optical telescope like Hubble, they are surrounded by bright clumps of luminous stars and hot gas drawn in by the powerful gravitational tug".