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Posted 07 April 2006 - 10:40 PM
Astronomers have found a pair of giant black holes that are moving together and could eventually merge into a single super-massive black hole.
Scientists had already observed the two black holes using radio telescopes, but new data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show how the two are bound by gravity and orbiting around each other.
The X-ray data show that the two black holes are moving at about 1200 kilometres per second. As they move through interstellar gas, they emit jets of plasma that are bent back behind them.
Craig Sarazin, an astronomer at the University of Virginia, compares the jets to contrails produced by airplanes. By observing radiation from the jets, the researchers found that they are bent together and intertwined, showing that the two blacks holes are orbiting each other.
Sarazin, Daniel Hudson and Thomas Reiprich of the University of Bonn, and Tracy Clarke of the U.S. Naval Researcher Laboratory co-authored the study, which was published in Thursday's issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
A black hole is a concentration of mass so great that not even light can escape its gravitational pull. They are formed when a star collapses under its own mass. Super-massive black holes are believed to exist at the centres of most galaxies.
Astronomers have theorized that coupled black holes exist, and that they can merge into even larger black holes. The new observations give more evidence that this actually happens.
Each of the two black holes is at the centre of its host galaxy and those galaxies are merging. As well, the galaxy cluster where the two galaxies are found, Abell 400, is merging with a neighbouring cluster. Source --------------------------------------------------------------- Quite the find. Soon it will be a super-blackhole.
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." ~Philip K. Dick