365体育官方网站

Latest in Gear

Image credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Astronomers may have spotted light from colliding black holes

It would be the first known instance of a visible collision.
Jon Fingas,
June 28, 2020
1755 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

Artist's depiction of orbiting black holes near a supermassive black hole
Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Black hole collisions tend not to produce light by their very nature — you may catch gravitational waves, but that’s about it. However, scientists might have just found one of those rare instances where a collision was visible. A team using May 2019 data from both the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and Europe’s Virgo detector has what appears to be the first known instance of a “flare of light” from two merging black holes. If so, the key would likely be their interaction with a third, larger counterpart.

Many galaxies have supermassive black holes at their center whose giant gas disk can merge smaller black holes. When that happens, the newly unified black hole can be sent off in an unusual direction through the disk, sparking a gas reaction days or weeks after the gravitational waves appear. The timing of the flare lined up with this, and it even gradually faded away over the course of a month.

Researchers effectively eliminated other phenomenons as possible causes, such a black hole ‘eating’ a star, a supernova or a flare from the supermassive black hole itself.

This isn’t absolute proof, at least not yet. Caltech astronomy professor Matthew Graham was quick to warn that astronomers couldn’t “completely rule out” other events. If this is the result of a collision, though, it validates existing theories and represents a rare direct glimpse of black hole activity.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
1755 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Engadget's 2020 Back-to-School Guide

Engadget's 2020 Back-to-School Guide

View
Ubisoft posts 'Far Cry 6' teaser starring Giancarlo Esposito

Ubisoft posts 'Far Cry 6' teaser starring Giancarlo Esposito

View
Amazon Prime Video will soon have the content, but it needs a better home

Amazon Prime Video will soon have the content, but it needs a better home

View
Google reveals its new Nest smart speaker

Google reveals its new Nest smart speaker

View
Amazon bans TikTok app on employee phones

Amazon bans TikTok app on employee phones

View

From around the web

Astronomers may have spotted light from colliding black holes | Engadget Astronomers may have spotted light from colliding black holes | Engadget Astronomers may have spotted light from colliding black holes | Engadget Astronomers may have spotted light from colliding black holes | Engadget Astronomers may have spotted light from colliding black holes | Engadget Astronomers may have spotted light from colliding black holes | Engadget Astronomers may have spotted light from colliding black holes | Engadget