Strange Science: Two Giant Black Holes Spiraling Toward a Collision

Dr. Joseph Lazio, Interplanetary Network Directorate Scientist, joins Gary and Shannon to talks about two Black Holes Colliding into each other and shaking the space time space continuum!

Black holes orbiting one another (like these two are) create ripples in the fabric of space – spacetime. The LIGO experiment detected gravitational waves for the first time in 2016, though those black holes are much smaller. A project called NanoGrav is attempting to detect gravitational waves from big boys like the two found here.

A new study may change that: Researchers observing a supermassive black hole report signs that it has a closely orbiting companion. The enormous duo – called a binary – circle one another about every two years.
If the team is correct, the diameter of the binary’s orbit is 10 to 100 times smaller than the only other known supermassive binary, and the pair will merge in roughly 10,000 years. That might seem like a long time, but it would take a total of about 100 million years for black holes of this size to begin orbiting one another and finally come together. So this pair is more than 99% of the way to a collision.

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