Giant black holes could send new type of gravitational wave across the universe

A group of astronomers have discovered that a black hole collision within the next decade will release gravitational waves.
By Ed Mason | Nov 17, 2017
Astronomers at the Flatiron Institute have found evidence that two supermassive black holes will collide and release gravitational waves within the next 10 years.

Gravitational waves are extremely violent events that take shoot out across the vase reaches of the universe and alter the shape of time and space. However, while the unique phenomena can be detected on Earth, scientists know very little about them.

To date, researchers have only found gravitational waves that come from colliding black holes or colliding stars because that is what their detectors are programmed to do. Such waves typically originate from holes millions, or even billions, times the mass of our Sun that orbit another hole that is roughly the same size.

To expand on what we know about the strange phenomena, the team in the recent study used realdata to predict how many galaxies would radiate future waves. In addition, they also managed to see which galaxies would release the waves as well.

"Before, everyone used simulations that couldn't tell you which galaxies to look at specifically," lead author Chiara Mingarelli, an astrophysicist from the Flatiron Institute, told Gizmodo. "But using my techniques with theoretical galaxy merger rate, we can point to galaxies in the sky and say 'that one.'"

This finding is important because it could help scientists better track down where waves come from. In addition, it could alsomake scientists reevaluate what they know about howsupermassive black holes unite. Sometimes merging galaxies can stall atapproximately three light-years of separation in what is known as theFinal Parsec Problem. While the black holes do still merge, it takes them much longer than predicted and makes it so they do not have the energy to produce detectable waves.

The team plans to tweak their model to better understand how the laws of the universe affect galaxy merger rates. They hope that information will then allow them to better study gravitational waves.

The new findings are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.


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