Scientists have spotted two supermassive black holes eating away at cosmic materials as two galaxies in distant space are merging together. This is reportedly the nearest to colliding black holes that astronomers have ever caught sight of. Experts controlling the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array of telescopes (ALMA) in Chile made the staggering observation of the two merging galaxies around 500 million light-years away from our planet.
Supermassive black holes are thought to be present in every major galaxy and grow bigger as they draw in and absorb on vast amounts of dust, gas, and stars from the surrounding space environment.
When galaxies collide with each other, these supermassive holes can come incredibly close to one another, too. When black holes do slam into each other, the event is so powerful that it creates a ripple in space-time that travels across the universe.
Both black holes were spotted in the Cancer constellation and were getting larger simultaneously, close to the centre of the merging galaxy that came as a result of the merger. In terms of scale, one of the supermassive black holes is 200 million times the mass of our sun. The other one is 125 million times the mass of our star.
They were both surrounded by bright clusters of stars and hot glowing gas, although the astronomers couldn’t actually spot the black holes themselves. All the materials are being drawn in by the gravitational pull of the two holes.
They will begin to start circling one another in orbit until they eventually crash into one another and creating one black hole. The scientists observed them across multiple wavelengths of light and they are only around 750 light-years apart, making them the closest together black holes astronomers have ever seen.
The experts shared the results at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society, and published the research in in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Chiara Mingarelli, an associate research scientist at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics and study co-author, said that the distance between the black holes “is fairly close to the limit of what we can detect, which is why this is so exciting”.