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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday November 11 2018, @03:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the like-looking-at-a-nazgul dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Astronomers find pairs of black holes at the centers of merging galaxies

For the first time, a team of astronomers has observed several pairs of galaxies in the final stages of merging together into single, larger galaxies. Peering through thick walls of gas and dust surrounding the merging galaxies' messy cores, the research team captured pairs of supermassive black holes—each of which once occupied the center of one of the two original smaller galaxies—drawing closer together before they coalescence into one giant black hole.

Led by University of Maryland alumnus Michael Koss (M.S. '07, Ph.D. '11, astronomy), a research scientist at Eureka Scientific, Inc., with contributions from UMD astronomers, the team surveyed hundreds of nearby galaxies using imagery from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble observations represent more than 20 years' worth of images from the telescope's lengthy archive. The team described their findings in a research paper published on November 8, 2018, in the journal Nature.

"Seeing the pairs of merging galaxy nuclei associated with these huge black holes so close together was pretty amazing," Koss said. "In our study, we see two galaxy nuclei right when the images were taken. You can't argue with it; it's a very 'clean' result, which doesn't rely on interpretation."

The high-resolution images also provide a close-up preview of a phenomenon that astronomers suspect was more common in the early universe, when galaxy mergers were more frequent. When the black holes finally do collide, they will unleash powerful energy in the form of gravitational waves—ripples in space-time recently detected for the first time by the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors.

The images also presage what will likely happen in a few billion years, when our Milky Way galaxy merges with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. Both galaxies host supermassive black holes at their center, which will eventually smash together and merge into one larger black hole.

More information: A population of luminous accreting black holes with hidden mergers, Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0652-7 , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0652-7


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @06:46PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @06:46PM (#760675)

    Literally their only tool is analyzing em radiation, yet nearly every "news" story about whats coming out of astronomy is about stuff they cannot detect directly but instead must infer based on a long chain of assumptions. It is getting really annoying, like during the end stages of a failed project that refuses to die.

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday November 11 2018, @06:54PM (4 children)

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday November 11 2018, @06:54PM (#760680) Journal

    It is getting really annoying

    Get used to it. There's plenty of pretty pictures on the web for you to look at, but astronomers are going to continue to use light curves, simulations, machine learning, etc. no matter how much you whine about it.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @07:00PM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @07:00PM (#760684)

      You can simulate it, and it predicts well. But, it's wrong.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @07:05PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @07:05PM (#760687)

        Does it predict well? Please provide an example of what you are referring to. I bet it involves putting arbitrary amounts of black/dark shit wherever is necessary to make the prediction work.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @08:01PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @08:01PM (#760699)

          My, aren't you clever. "Dark matter / energy" is a physicist's shorthand for "all the places where we *know* our current models are giving incorrect results". *Of course* it pops up in all places where the models are wrong, doh!

          The problem is: the current model is still the best we have. Even though we know it has problems.

          So unless you have a better model, you are welcome to join 99.99% of modern physicists in their miserable inadequacy.

          And if you *do* have a better model, there may be a Nobel in it for you. Hint: Electric Universe doesn't count.(that and it's ilk are the missing 0.001%)

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @10:25PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11 2018, @10:25PM (#760723)

            I understand. The models are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but there is no bread.