Imagine two incredibly massive black holes — each approximately 800 million times larger than our sun — colliding with each other. What would that look like? And exactly would happen when they do meet?
According to research in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the black holes in question are located 2.5 billion light years from Earth, meaning that it will take some 2.5 billion years for astronomers to even detect the explosion of cosmic waves that will be generated by the collision.
The gravitational waves produced by the two black holes bombarding each other will be so large that they’re known to be the loudest in the universe, according to Computational Astrophysics scientist Chiara Mingarelli.
But will the two black holes merge, combine into one, or split and reform? That’s a question that’s been debated for years. However, we still don’t have a concrete answer Princeton astrophysicist Jenny Greene admits:
“It’s a major embarrassment for astronomy that we don’t know if supermassive black holes merge. For everyone in black hole physics, observationally this is a long-standing puzzle that we need to solve.”
The idea of what exactly transpires when black holes meet and collide has been theorized by physicists as brilliant as Albert Einstein. And Fraser Cain of Universe Today had this to say about the subject back in 2016:
“In a few billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda are going to collide, and begin the process of merging together. Unless the Milky Way’s black hole gets kicked off into deep space, the two black holes are going to end up orbiting one another.
“Just with the stellar mass black holes, they’re going to radiate away angular momentum in the form of gravitational waves, and spiral closer and closer together. Some point, in the distant future, the two black holes will merge into an even more supermassive black hole.
“The Milky Way and Andromeda will merge into Milkdromeda, and over the future billions of years, will continue to gather up new galaxies, extract their black holes and mashing them into the collective.”
Consider such a scenario a sort of second Big Bang, but this time instead of forming our galaxy, we could wind up losing it when it’s subsumed into another larger entity. The very idea is almost more than the mind can comprehend.
The PBS program “Nova” also looked at colliding black holes just last year and then explored the topic of black holes once again earlier this month. But again, there was no conclusive theory as to what happens when they collide.
“They’re also the most powerful; their gravity is so strong that nothing—not even light—can escape their pull. And they’re the most destructive, swallowing particles, dust, gas, planets, even giant stars. Anything that falls into them vanishes … gone forever. But now, astrophysicists are coming to realize that black holes just might be an essential key to the structure of the universe—and to our very existence.”
If researchers are able to gather data from waves generated by colliding black holes in the next few years, they hope to prove conclusively that such collisions do indeed lead to a merger that creates one even larger gravitational void. And once they have such answers, they may be one step closer to knowing exactly how our future in the cosmos will end, as it inevitably must.
Here’s more on black holes colliding from Destiny below:
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