Astronomers Discover Rare “Flirting” Supermassive Black Holes

Scientists at the University of New Mexico (UNM) have announced an incredible finding that could revolutionize the way we understand not only black holes, but also the Universe.

This discovery marks the first ever successful observation of two separate supermassive black holes orbiting each other. While both these black holes are hundreds of millions of light years away from us, that distance is just perfect for conducting optical observation. The observation spanned over a period of 12 years.

orbiting supermassive blackholes
Courtesy: Phys.org

“For a long time, we’ve been looking into space to try and find a pair of these supermassive black holes orbiting as a result of two galaxies merging,” Professor Greg Taylor, one of the researchers associated with the study, explained in a UNM news release.

“Even though we’ve theorized that this should be happening, nobody had ever seen it until now.”

For the observation, the research team made use of the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to plot the trajectories of both supermassive black holes. However, given that both these giant bodies of incredible mass take around 24,000 years to orbit each other, the scientists are yet to identify any curvature in their orbit even after observing them for more than a decade.

The implication of this discovery is enormous.

“Supermassive black holes have a lot of influence on the stars around them and the growth and evolution of the galaxy,” Taylor explained.

“So, understanding more about them and what happens when they merge with one another could be important for our understanding for the universe.”

The team now expects to make another analytical observation in the next three to four years to confirm their findings and collect more data about the orbits of both these black holes.