May 21, 2024

NASA discovers two pairs of giant black holes about to merge.

Astronomers have captured a strange, unprecedented phenomenon: distant dwarf galaxies are preparing to merge, accompanied by a giant black hole at their center. What’s more: Not just one, but a couple were discovered!

Two new candidates for AGNs have been found by a team of researchers, according to a study accepted and published in The Astrophysical Journal. ArXiv previously released. This phenomenon has been theoretically worked out for a long time, but until now it has not been noticed. More specifically, it is the merger of supermassive black holes located at the centers of galaxies. And not just any dwarf galaxies with fewer than a billion stars. For comparison: the Milky Way contains from 200 to 400 billion stars!

And this type of merger is particularly interesting because the first galaxies, which were nowhere near the size of the Milky Way, were dwarf galaxies. Then they merged into the galaxies we know today. It is likely that most of the dwarf galaxies and black holes in the early universe have grown much larger now through repeated mergers.” press release. “In a way, dwarf galaxies are our galactic ancestors, and they evolved over billions of years to give rise to large galaxies, like our own Milky Way.”

© NASA, CXC, University of Alabama, M Mikic et al.
A pair of dwarf galaxies is about to collide.

It was captured using black hole accretion disks.

The pair of galaxies, named Mirabilis and Elstir & Vinteuil, are located 760 million light-years and 3.2 billion light-years away, respectively, and were imaged using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. They were discovered by the accretion disk of the central black hole: matter falling into the black hole heats up to millions of degrees and forms a disk of plasma around the star that emits a large amount of X-rays.

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The first pair, Mirabilis, are in the final stages of merging and display a long tail caused by the tidal effects of the collision. In contrast, Elstir & Vinteuil are still in their infancy and are gradually forming a bridge of stars and gas connecting the two galaxies. “Follow-up observations of these two systems will allow us to study processes critical to understanding galaxies and their black holes in their early stages,” concluded Jamie Irwin, co-author of the study.

Editor: Futura, Posted by Leah Vornassohn.

Cover Image: © Maryna Olyak, Adobe Stock – A pair of galaxies observed by researchers tells us of the first-ever galaxy collision.

2 Figure: © Nasa, CXC, University of Alabama, M. Micic et al.