Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have identified five pairs of supermassive black holes, each millions of times the mass of the Sun, that could help better understand the phenomenon of gravitational waves.
These black hole couples are formed when two galaxies collide and merge with each other, forcing their supermassive black holes close together.
The black hole pairs were uncovered by combining data from a suite of different observatories including National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Wide-Field Infrared Sky Explorer Survey (WISE), and the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, researchers said.
"Astronomers find single supermassive black holes all over the universe," said Shobita Satyapal, from George Mason University in the United States. "But even though we've predicted they grow rapidly when they are interacting, growing dual supermassive black holes have been difficult to find," said Satyapal.
Researchers used optical data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to identify galaxies where it appeared that a merger between two smaller galaxies was underway.
From this set, they selected objects where the separation between the centers of the two galaxies in the SDSS data is less than 30,000 light years, and the infrared colors from WISE data match those predicted for a rapidly growing supermassive black hole.
Seven merging systems containing at least one supermassive black hole were found with this technique.
One member of this black hole pair is particularly powerful, having the highest X-ray luminosity in a black hole pair observed by Chandra to date. The research has implications for the burgeoning field of gravitational wave astrophysics. (PTI)
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