For a long time, scientists theorized and questioned the possible existence of orbiting supermassive black holes. Now, a recently released study offers proof and confirms that two such holes in 0402+379 present an orbital motion.
A study paper presenting this accomplishment is available in the Astrophysical Journal.
According to the research paper, this cosmic dance is taking place in a galaxy called 0402+379. The two supermassive black holes orbiting around one another were estimated to have, together, a mass some 15 billion times that of the Sun.
Orbiting Supermassive Black Holes Take Around 24,000 Years
Their enormous mass also contributes to an extremely long orbital period. This has been calculated to take some 24,000 years. The research team behind the study has been observing these two stars for over a decade. But during this period, the orbiting supermassive black holes didn’t present even a slight curvature.
“As I learned there was data going back to 2003, we plotted it and determined they are orbiting one another. It’s very exciting,” stated Karishma Bansal.
She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico and lead author of the paper. Bansal added that the research team would continue observing this binary system. She estimates that some 3 to 4 years will pass before they can plot the system’s precise orbit.
All of the study observations were made thanks to the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The VLBA is basically a series of 10 radio telescopes spread across the country.
Greg Taylor, a study co-author, pointed out another significant aspect stemming from the discovery of orbiting supermassive black holes. He states that this could tell scientists quite a lot about both the black stars and their home galaxies.
It could also offer further information as to the faith of two merging galaxies. This could be significant for our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Science predicts that this is on a probable collision course with Andromeda. This nearby galaxy also has a supermassive black hole at its center.
Understanding what is going on in 0402+379 could bring significant information about both the Milky Way in a few billion years and the Universe itself.
Image Source: JPL/NASA