Black hole trio holds promise for gravity wave hunt

June 25, 2014
This artist's concept depicts a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. The blue color here represents radiation pouring out from material very close to the black hole. The grayish structure surrounding the black hole, called a torus, is made up of gas and dust. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The discovery of three closely orbiting supermassive black holes in a galaxy more than four billion light years away could help astronomers in the search for gravitational waves: the 'ripples in spacetime' predicted by Einstein.

An international team, including Oxford University scientists, led by Dr Roger Deane from the University of Cape Town, examined six systems thought to contain two supermassive black holes. The team found that one of these contained three supermassive black holes – the tightest trio of black holes detected at such a large distance – with two of them orbiting each other rather like binary stars. The finding suggests that these closely-packed are far more common than previously thought.

A report of the research is published in this week's Nature.

Dr Roger Deane from the University of Cape Town said: 'What remains extraordinary to me is that these black holes, which are at the very extreme of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, are orbiting one another at 300 times the speed of sound on Earth. Not only that, but using the combined signals from radio telescopes on four continents we are able to observe this exotic system one third of the way across the Universe. It gives me great excitement as this is just scratching the surface of a long list of discoveries that will be made possible with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).'

Professor Matt Jarvis of Oxford University's Department of Physics, an author of the paper, said: 'General Relativity predicts that merging black holes are sources of and in this work we have managed to spot three black holes packed about as tightly together as they could be before spiralling into each other and merging. The idea that we might be able to find more of these potential sources of gravitational waves is very encouraging as knowing where such signals should originate will help us try to detect these 'ripples' in spacetime as they warp the Universe.'

The team used a technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) to discover the inner two black holes of the triple system. This technique combines the signals from large radio antennas separated by up to 10,000 kilometres to see detail 50 times finer than that possible with the Hubble Space Telescope. The discovery was made with the European VLBI Network, an array of European, Chinese, Russian and South African antennas, as well as the 305 metre Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Future radio telescopes such as the SKA will be able to measure the gravitational waves from such black hole systems as their orbits decrease.

At this point, very little is actually known about black hole systems that are so close to one another that they emit detectable gravitational waves. Professor Jarvis said: 'This discovery not only suggests that close-pair black hole systems emitting at radio wavelengths are much more common than previously expected, but also predicts that such as MeerKAT and the African VLBI Network (AVN, a network of antennas across the continent) will directly assist in the detection and understanding of the gravitational wave signal. Further in the future the SKA will allow us to find and study these systems in exquisite detail, and really allow us gain a much better understanding of how black holes shape galaxies over the history of the Universe.'

Dr Keith Grainge of the University of Manchester, an author of the paper, said: 'This exciting discovery perfectly illustrates the power of the VLBI technique, whose exquisite sharpness of view allows us to see deep into the hearts of distant galaxies. The next generation radio observatory, the SKA, is being designed with VLBI capabilities very much in mind.'

While the VLBI technique was essential to discover the inner two black, the team has also shown that the binary black hole presence can be revealed by much larger scale features. The orbital motion of the black hole is imprinted onto its large jets, twisting them into a helical or corkscrew-like shape. So even though black holes may be so close together that our telescopes can't tell them apart, their twisted jets may provide easy-to-find pointers to them, much like using a flare to mark your location at sea. This may provide sensitive future telescopes like MeerKAT and the SKA a way to find binary with much greater efficiency.

Explore further: How much of the universe is black holes?

More information: A close-pair binary in a distant triple supermassive black-hole system, Nature, 2014.

Related Stories

How much of the universe is black holes?

June 17, 2014

We all fear black holes, but how many of them are there out there, really? Between the stellar mass black holes and the supermassive ones, just how much of our Universe is black holes?

Global telescope array links successfully with GBT

May 9, 2014

For the first time, the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) was successfully linked with a network of millimeter-wavelength telescopes, giving a powerful boost to an observatory known as the Global Millimeter ...

Galaxy harbors many star-snacking black holes

July 2, 2012

( -- Astronomers have found evidence of hundreds of black holes in a galaxy 250 million light years away. The discovery, made with a worldwide network of radio telescopes, gives scientists a new way to find out how ...

Recommended for you

Solar minimum surprisingly constant

November 17, 2017

Using more than a half-century of observations, Japanese astronomers have discovered that the microwaves coming from the sun at the minimums of the past five solar cycles have been the same each time, despite large differences ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2014
Jun 25, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Jun 26, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (4) Jun 26, 2014
About shown object from JPL and NASA and assertion that this is two "black holes" interacting each other: The distance to this object is 3,8 billion light years or so. When the light ray start from this object towards us (Earth) the velocity of birth of the periphery matter- let accept that it is in order of 300 km/s how it is in our galaxy (average tangential velocity of revolving). Maybe this velocity is differently, but it is impossible a lot (USM][/url] ). During light ray traveling from this object to us, the velocity of birth shrinks the perimeter of the periphery by the formula:
∆P=V_B (D(distance))/(C(velocity of light))=300[km/s] (3,8.〖(3,15).10〗^7.〖10〗^9.3.〖10〗^5 [km/s])/(3.〖10〗^5 [km/s] )=35,9.〖10〗^7.〖10〗^9 [km]
If the diameter of these two objects are approximately the same as it is in our galaxy around 5.〖10〗^4 light years=5.〖10〗^17 [km] , then follows that the efficiency of thickening is equal to
K=(35,9.〖10〗^7.〖10〗^9)/(π5.〖10〗^17 )=0,23 Therefore all distances in this object are shrinking around 4 times And if this object indeed is energy activated, then the velocity of birth can be 10 time bigger or so and hence the shrinking is 40 times. So obviously the real spot diameter of these objects is around 40 times bigger than what we see from Earth and the distance between these two objects it isn't 1 light year but 40 light years and the observed length of waves from here (Earth) must to increase 40 times. The same it is in force about the spot energy E=h.γ→ real spot energy is 40 times smaller than what we observing from Earth. You can see that this energy concentration which we observing from here (Earth), in fact is far more normal and therefore violence looking object called "black hole" is illusion.
Let me now calculate the same object's parameters but without the thickening of the space, and only using the general relativity formula √(1-V^2/C^2 ) Let return to the page: 81, 82 USM][/url] where was calculated the Sun velocity of birth. If we don't take into account the thickening of the space but only shown relativistic member, it is seen that we must to take velocity of birth 0,9999…9.C almost equal to the velocity of light and this is only about one Sun mass…but what about millions of sun masses how it is asserted to exist in so called "super massive black holes"….then what must to be the velocity of birth…equal to velocity of light?! Obviously these "black holes" which so much like to use nowadays astronomers is absolutely foolishness!
Jun 26, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Jun 26, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
5 / 5 (4) Jun 26, 2014
"Astronomers have gathered the most direct evidence yet of a supermassive black hole shredding a star that wandered too close." -- http://hubblesite...18/full/

"Though we cannot see black holes directly, they are so powerful that we can see their unmistakable, dramatic effects on the matter around them. Here are three lines of evidence that black-hole hunters look for:" --

Black Holes and Galaxies – excellent lecture given by Reinhard Genzel at ANU, July 2009.
5 / 5 (8) Jun 26, 2014
Wow, what is it about some topics that bring the weirdos out. On this short post no less than four "alternatives"(to be kind) are presented to what is discussed in the article (Mr Pressure, arom, gg kanev, mohammedshafiq). No EU or AWT....yet. Would be interesting to get these four in a room to figure out who's got the right alternative(they can't all be right).

Anyway, for anyone interested in what these researchers actually found, a preprint of their Nature paper can be found here:
1 / 5 (2) Jul 03, 2014
See cosmic Pot Energy of the universe- my research Paper presented at STSCI
The cosmic Flows operate in 4^n mode and The Cosmic Fields spread 2x5^m mode from the Central-core Region.
Notes: cosmic Dance of SIVA - GANGA -flow concept.
Please for God's sake get out of the Blackhole psychology in the interest of Space-Cosmology Studies- origins-Vedas -Interlretations help Interlinks -Philosophical Edge on Space data- Science of Higher Dimensions http://archive.or...osmology

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.