(ORDO NEWS) — At a distance of 9 billion light-years from us, two supermassive black holes (SMBHs) orbit each other with a period of two years.
Each of these two giant bodies has a mass on the order of hundreds of millions of solar masses, and the objects are separated by a distance greater than the distance between the Sun and Pluto by about 50 times.
When the final merger of this pair takes place in 10,000 years, a powerful collision will shake the cosmic space-time, and gravitational waves will sweep through the entire Universe.
A team of astronomers led by Sandra O’Neill (Sandra O’Neill) from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) found signs that such a scenario is unfolding in the vicinity of a powerful high-energy object known as a quasar.
Quasars are the active nuclei of galaxies, in The quasar observed in this new study, PKS 2131-021, belongs to a subclass of quasars called blazars, which are characterized by jets Astronomers have long suspected the existence of quasars with double central SMBHs, but finding direct evidence for the presence of such objects in the observable Universe has so far been difficult.
In their new study, the astronomers indicate that the object PKS 2131-021 is currently the second possible pair of SMBHs known to science, discovered during the merger stage.
The first such possible pair, which is part of the OJ 287 quasar, is separated by a large distance and has an orbital period of about 9 years, while the PKS 2131-021 pair makes one revolution in two years.
Convincing evidence of the presence of two SMBHs at the center of the studied quasar PKS 2131-021 was obtained on the basis of the archive of radio observations of this source, covering a period of 45 years.
According to the study, a powerful jet emitted from one of the two black holes experiences periodic spatial shifts due to the pair’s orbital motion. This leads to periodic changes in the luminosity of the quasar in the radio range.
Five different observatories recorded these changes, including Caltech’s Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO), University of Michigan Michigan Radio Astronomy Observatory (UMRAO), Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Haystack Observatory, US National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Metsähovi Radio Observatory in Finland,
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