X-ray observations confirm the imminent merger of supermassive black holes in a distant galaxy

(ORDO NEWS) — The active center of the galaxy J1430 + 2303 is behaving strangely: this may indicate that a unique event will occur very soon in it – the merger of a pair of supermassive black holes.

The galaxy SDSS J1430+2303 lies about 1.1 billion light-years away in the constellation Bootes and has the mass of about 150 billion suns.

The radiation coming from it oscillates with a fairly regular periodicity, and the frequency of these oscillations increases with time.

This suggests that in the active center of the galaxy there is not one supermassive black hole, but a pair of such objects at once, which are approaching along ever shorter turns of the spiral and are about to merge in a grandiose catastrophe.

Astronomers estimate that the total mass of these black holes is about 200 million solar masses, and the merger could occur as early as three (Earth) years.

However, there is no 100% certainty yet. The signal from a distant galaxy is difficult to pick up and even more difficult to correctly interpret.

We have a poor understanding of what is happening in active centers, and it may well be that the oscillations are associated with some other processes in this extreme region of J1430+2303.

Therefore, Chinese scientists conducted a new analysis of the galaxy’s X-ray emission using data from 200 days of observations from the XMM-Newton, NuSTAR, Chandra and Swift space telescopes.

These data confirmed the oscillations of the X-ray emission emanating from the J1430+2303 center, which varies several times on a scale of several days. The matter surrounding the epicenter of events exhibits rapid changes in speed.

This picture is consistent with the hypothesis of a future merger, although there is still no unambiguous evidence for it.

Ning Jiang and his colleagues write about this in an article that has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and is already available in the arXiv preprint library .

Black hole mergers are one of the most powerful processes in our universe. They give rise to gravitational waves, “ripples of space-time,” which in recent years have been able to detect ground-based instruments such as the LIGO and Virgo observatories.

Since 2015, several such events have been recorded, but they all occurred with stellar mass holes. Supermassive black hole mergers create longer gravitational waves, beyond the range available to existing detectors.

It is impossible to fully prepare for a future event in the J1430+2303 galaxy and launch new gravitational-wave observatories in such a short time.

If the merger does happen, it will have to be observed with traditional instruments – telescopes operating in different ranges.

Nevertheless, such work can reveal a lot of interesting details about the event itself and its participants. It is believed that mergers are the key mechanism that allows supermassive holes to gain many millions and billions of solar masses.

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