Two supermassive black holes may collide in 3 years’ time

However, the scientists do concede that more observations are needed to help confirm whether two black holes are on the verge of colliding at the heart of J1429+2303. Their findings have been accepted in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and they are available in the pre-print server ArXiv.

The first black hole collision was detected in 2015 due to the gravitational waves the event sent rippling through space-time. However, that collision, as well as future observations, were all detected after the fact, with the gravitational force rippling out from the event for years afterwards. That means the collision at the center of SDSS J1430+2303 could be the first time astronomers could observe such an event as it unfolds.

A supermassive black hole collision in real time

There is one important caveat in the lead up to this cosmic event. Supermassive black holes generate gravitational ripples in a range that is too low for our current gravitational wave instruments to detect. Almost all black hole mergers so far have been detected by LIGO and Virgo, both of which are capable of detecting ripples in the frequency generated by binary black holes.

Still, the astronomers believe the event will still emit a massive outburst of light across the spectrum that they’ll be able to capture using other observatories. If and when it does happen, it could help the scientific community learn a great deal about the evolution of supermassive black holes.

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