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Scientists Record Evidence Of Merging Supermassive Black Holes

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Astronomers have, for the first time, found evidence of double supermassive black holes merging, giving insight into how the universe was created.

Merging Of Supermassive Binary Black Holes

The team of international researchers was able to confirm the existence of supermassive binary black holes — the precursor to the merging of black holes — by observing the direction of the powerful jets they emit. Supermassive black holes at the center of active galaxies emit jets made up of radiation and particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. When two supermassive black holes orbit each other (supermassive binary black holes), the direction in which these powerful jets are emitted changes. 

However, prior to the study, this cosmological phenomenon has only been observed from binary black holes, not supermassive binary black holes. Since 2015, gravitational wave telescopes have been able to detect the merging of smaller binary black holes. Meanwhile, there is currently no technology that can demonstrate the presence of supermassive binary black holes. 

The scientists involved, therefore, created the method to find supermassive binary black holes. They looked at radio maps and observed the direction in which powerful jets are emitted. They, then, compared their data on one of the radio lobes. Through this system, the researchers were able to find a significant number of supermassive binary black holes. 

"We have studied the jets in different conditions for a long time with computer simulations," explained Martin Krause, the lead author of the study and a lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire. "In this first systematic comparison to high-resolution radio maps of the most powerful radio sources, we were astonished to find signatures that were compatible with jet precession in three quarters of the sources."

The scientists also explained that the movement of the supermassive binary black holes' powerful jets affects the formation of stars in their galaxies. Because they move directions, these powerful jets heat up the gas in its vicinity and, therefore, limit the formation of more stars. 

Their findings were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Game-Changing Discovery

The study sheds light into the development of the universe. It adds evidence to the theory that galaxies and black holes merge after a while, creating bigger galaxies and bigger black holes. 

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