2 Black Holes Colliding with Power of 1 Million Supernovas

This artist’s impression shows how ULAS J1120+0641, a very distant quasar powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun, may have looked. This quasar is the most distant yet found and is seen as it was just 770 million years after the Big Bang. This object is by far the brightest object yet discovered in the early Universe.

Scientists have spotted a rare and cosmic event happening 3.5 billion light years from Earth: the impending collision of a pair of black holes, each spiraling in slowly around the other.

orbiting black holes

Astronomers at Caltech identified a cosmic event, confirmed by researchers Columbia University, and while no one is certain how things will play out, it is estimated that the collision will release destructive gravitational waves through space-time with power equivalent to 1,000,000 supernovas.

black hole image

Black holes are extremely dense objects whose gravitational pulls are so great that not even light can escape. Most galaxies seem to have a supermassive black hole, which can be problematic when galaxies merge. Two supermassive black holes usually enter into orbit with each other, until they interact with other celestial objects, like interstellar gas. As more research is done on this real unfolding example, there is a vast range of potential new knowledge to be gained from such an unusual cosmic collision.

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See more in Space & Time or under Science. December, 2015.