Black Holes Near Earth on the Verge of Merging

Black Holes Near Earth on the Verge of Merging

G. Cruz

Astronomers have discovered a pair of supermassive black holes that are closer to Earth than any previously observed supermassive black hole. The two black holes are 89 million light-years away from our planet in the constellation Aquarius, more than 380 light-years closer than the next nearest pair of black holes.

The two black holes are also the closest known to each other, at barely 1600 light-years away. Eventually, these two will merge into “one monster black hole, probably within the next 250 million years,” Holger Baumgardt, a professor at the University of Queensland, said. These massive gravity wells contain very dense masses, which astronomers from France’s Strasbourg Observatory were able to estimate by observing how the stars surrounding them were influenced.

The larger black hole, which was found at the center of the galaxy NGC 7727, has a mass over 154 million times that of the Sun, while its partner had 6.3 million solar masses. The presence of two black holes in the galaxy has long been hypothesized by astronomers, but they had not been able to confirm their presence until now. This is due to the fact that we cannot see the vast volumes of high-energy radiation that would indicate their presence.

“Our discovery suggests that there may be many more of these leftovers of galaxy mergers out there,” says Karina Voggel, an astronomer at the Strasbourg Observatory.

“It might result in a 30% increase in the total number of supermassive black holes known in the local Universe.” Experts predict that ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which is due to begin operations later this decade in Chile’s Atacama Desert, would significantly advance the search for similarly concealed supermassive black hole pairings.