Published: Sun, November 11, 2018
Science | By

Astronomers observe supermassive black holes in merging galaxies

Astronomers observe supermassive black holes in merging galaxies

The scientists, led by Eureka Scientific researcher Michael Koss, were able to capture the images by looking through the thick walls of gas and dust that surround the galaxies' cores, leading to the incredible images. The image at top left, taken by Hubble's Wide. In approximately six billion years the process will be complete and a single elliptical galaxy will be born.

Our own Milky Way galaxy is now undergoing a merger with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, and the supermassive black holes at the two galactic cores will eventually smash together, Koss said.

"The images are pretty powerful since they are 10 times sharper than images from normal telescopes on the ground". It's similar to going from legally blind (20/200 vision) to flawless 20/20 vision when you put on your eyeglasses. "You can't argue with it; it's a very "clean" result, which doesn't rely on interpretation". They published the results in the journal Nature on November 8.

"Computer simulations of galaxy smashups show us that black holes grow fastest during the final stages of mergers, near the time when the black holes interact, and that's what we have found in our survey", said study team member Laura Blecha of the University of Florida, in Gainesville.

They believe the black holes were expanding over the last 10 million to 20 million years of the merger. "It's the first time this population has really been discovered".

"Galactic mergers might be a key way of growing black holes", Koss said. This process takes billions of years, but ends in a blink of an eye.

Milky Way formed around a huge black hole.

It is not easy to find galactic nuclei so close together.

Researchers were able to obtain the images by observing the thick layers of gas and dust that can be found around the cores of the clashing galaxies. The findings suggest that such events are more common than astronomers used to think.


"Deep inside the dusty, messy cores of merging galaxies are pairs of black holes feasting on material and moving closer to coalescence", a tweet on the Hubble Telescope twitter account read.

The researchers then combed through the Hubble archive, zeroing in on the merging galaxies they spotted in the X-ray data.

Their black holes were tracked as they drew closer together, shortly before they fused into one giant black hole.

The scientists said each of the black holes were said to once occupy the centre of one of the two original, smaller galaxies.

This survey may also help astronomers observe a black hole merger. These ripples in space-time, which were predicted by Einstein, were recently detected in 2016 by groundbreaking experiments.

When the two supermassive black holes in each of these systems finally come together in millions of years, their encounters will produce strong gravitational waves. In order to image such an event, astronomers need to know where to look and what object to look for. Gravitational waves produced by the collision of two stellar-mass black holes have already been detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). All of those galaxies are located an average of 330 million light-years from Earth, relatively close by in cosmic terms, with many similar in size to the Milky Way.

The next step for Koss and his team is to follow up on these hidden black hole mergers with Keck Observatory's instrument, the OH-Suppressing Infra-Red Imaging Spectrograph (OSIRIS). Her experience in writing also intersects the IT niche, given the fact that she worked as a content editor for firms that produce software for mobile devices. OSIRIS data will also look for signs to see if the two black holes are both growing simultaneously. The right image, showing the bright cores, was taken in near-infrared light by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, using adaptive optics to sharpen the view.

Then they looked for galaxies that matched these X-rays using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. For nearby black hole pairs, JWST should also be capable of measuring the masses, growth rates and other physical parameters for each black hole. In total, the team analyzed 96 galaxies observed with the Keck telescope and 385 galaxies from the Hubble archive. NIRC2 is probably best known for helping to provide definitive proof of a central massive black hole at the center of our galaxy. While some works have pointed out the connection between quasars and colliding galaxies, other studies this relationship was not found.

Credit: M. Koss (Eureka Scientific, Inc.)/NASA/ESA;Keck images: M. Koss (Eureka Scientific, Inc.)/W.M. These direct observations had not been made before. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain. The authors recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the Native Hawaiian community.

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