Colliding Black Holes Spell Doom for Far-Off Galaxy

An artist's depiction of two supermassive black holes converging. (P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF)

An artist’s depiction of two supermassive black holes converging. (P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Colliding Black Holes Spell Doom for Far-Off Galaxy

Here in the Milky Way Galaxy, we spend a great deal of time and energy debating which apocalyptic event will supposedly ‘do us in for good’; however, there are other galaxies with their own doomsday brewing.

For example: 3.5 billion light-years away, two supermassive black holes are orbiting so closely to each other it could spell doom for their entire home galaxy, which is located within the Virgo constellation.

A Rhythmic Flicker

Matthew Graham, a computational astronomer at Caltech, has been tracking “a rhythmic flickering from the galaxy’s nucleus, a quasar known as PG 1302-102,”  The New York Times reports. He and his team have identified this flickering as, “the fatal mating dance of a pair of black holes with a total mass of more than a billion suns.”

If these black holes succeed in hooking up, the resulting cataclysm would equal 100 million supernova explosions, unleashing powerful gravitational waves that may reverberate far beyond a single galaxy.

Doomsday in 100,000 Years

Graham is not alone in his assessment. Another team from Columbia University has also been studying the rhythmic light emanating from these flirtatious black holes, and they agree that the galaxy’s impending apocalypse will probably occur in 100,000 years. Mark your calendars, Virgons! (Or is it Virgonians? Vogons?)

What’s unique, Columbia University noted in a press release last week, is that these supermassive black holes are only one light-week apart from each other. Previous closely orbiting black holes weren’t nearly as feisty, with the last observed pair being 20 light-years from each other.

“This is the closest we’ve come to observing two black holes on their way to a massive collision,” Dr. Zolton Haiman, one of the team’s astronomers, said in the statement, “Watching this process reach its culmination can tell us whether black holes and galaxies grow at the same rate, and ultimately test a fundamental property of space-time: its ability to carry vibrations called gravitational waves, produced in the last, most violent, stage of the merger.”

Testing Einstein’s Theory

Should these black holes collide as expected, the event will mark the first time that scientists will be able to observe gravitational waves. It will also provide support for the supposition that physics exists beyond the Standard Model, the International Business Times reports. Finally, this event could give us a greater understand of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“The detection of gravitational waves lets us probe the secrets of gravity and test Einstein’s theory in the most extreme environment in our universe–black holes,” Daniel D’Orazio, one of Dr. Haiman’s colleagues, said. “Getting there is the holy grail of our field.”

For a more in-depth discussion of Dr. Haiman’s findings, please check out his team’s study, which was published in the journal Nature last week

Is this collision a potentially exciting breakthrough for physicists? What if there’s alien life in this galaxy? How do you think they’re preparing for their impending doom? What would residents of Virgo even be called? Let us know your suggestions and join in the conversation! Comment below, share on Facebook, and find us on Twitter using the hashtag #DMTalk.

Pete Fernbaugh

Pete_Fernbaugh

Pete Fernbaugh is an experienced freelance writer, editor, and journalist who has worked primarily in the healthcare field for the last five years. He is also the co-host of Scapegoats & Straw Men, a podcast devoted to discussing in an entertaining and informative way the many logical fallacies that permeate our culture and dialogue. Pete has a passion for the mysterious and unknown, and he believes that nothing should be completely dismissed or completely accepted until the evidence is solid and credible.

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1 Response

  1. September 23, 2015

    […] We here in the Milky Way Galaxy spend a great deal of time and energy debating which apocalyptic event will do us in for good. However, there are other galaxies with their own apocalypses brewing. For example, 3.5 billion light-years away within the Virgo constellation, two supermassive black holes are orbiting so closely to each other it could spell doom for their home galaxy. Read More on Dark Matter News. #DarkMatterNews #ArtBell #MITD #DMTalkhttp://darkmatternews.com/colliding-black-holes-spell-doom-far-off-galaxy/ […]

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