Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

We know that our universe is full of black holes, existing everywhere from between ancient strange clusters of stars to the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Now astronomers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes located at the center of galaxies which are colliding together.

The scientists were examining what happens when two galaxies merge together into one larger galaxy. The process of collision generates huge amounts of gas and dust around the cores of the galaxies, which makes it difficult to see what is happening within. But the scientists were able to identify two supermassive black holes at the center of the two original galaxies which are drawing closer together and which will eventually coalesce into one enormous black hole.

The team used images from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to survey nearby galaxies and to find pairs of galaxies which were merging. In total, they looked at 385 galaxies from the archive of Hubble images and 96 galaxies from the Keck telescope. Using Hubble images, they were able to identify galaxy NGC 6240, whose two cores have nearly melded and which could be seen through infrared light which pierces the dust and gas around the central core. Four other merging galaxies were also discovered from the Keck Observatory data, which used near-infrared light and adaptive optics to identify merging galaxies.

Overall, the findings suggest that more than 17% of the galaxies that they studied had a pair of black holes at their center which were spiraling closer and closer together. Eventually, all of these pairs of black holes will come together to form an even larger black hole, which should happen in the next 10 million years. That might sound like a long time, but in cosmic terms it’s very soon.

“This is the first large systematic survey of 500 galaxies that really isolated these hidden late-stage black hole mergers that are heavily obscured and highly luminous,” lead researcher Dr. Michael Koss told Science News. “It’s the first time this population has really been discovered. We found a surprising number of supermassive black holes growing larger and faster in the final stages of galaxy mergers.”

The findings are published in Nature.

Product Review

The Black Shark gaming phone takes a big bite out of your free time, but the software sinks it

The world is being treated to an ever-increasing number of high-powered gaming phones. With so many great options already out, is there room for another? The Black Shark thinks so. But is it any good? We find out.

Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Emerging Tech

This unusual nature-inspired robot is equally at home on land or in the water

This intriguing, nature-inspired robot may look unusual, but it's impressively capable of moving on both land and water without problem. Heck, it can even travel on ice if necessary.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight takes it to the edge of space

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its fourth powered flight in Mojave, California. It was the company's most ambitious test flight yet -- and bodes well for the future.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.