Found: three black holes on collision course

Found: three black holes on collision course
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/George Mason Univ./R. Pfeifle et al.; Optical: SDSS & NASA/STScI

Astronomers have spotted three giant black holes within a titanic collision of three galaxies. Several observatories, including the Chandra X-ray Observatory and other NASA space telescopes, captured the unusual system.

"We were only looking for pairs of at the time, and yet, through our selection technique, we stumbled upon this amazing system," said Ryan Pfeifle of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the first author of a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal describing these results. "This is the strongest evidence yet found for such a triple system of actively feeding supermassive black holes."

The system is known as SDSS J084905.51+111447.2 (SDSS J0849+1114 for short) and is located a billion light-years from Earth.

To uncover this rare black hole trifecta, researchers needed to combine data from telescopes both on the ground and in space. First, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) telescope, which scans large swaths of the sky in from New Mexico, imaged SDSS J0849+1114. With the help of citizen scientists participating in a project called Galaxy Zoo, it was then tagged as a system of colliding .

Then, data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission revealed that the system was glowing intensely in during a phase in the galaxy merger when more than one of the black holes is expected to be feeding rapidly. To follow up on these clues, astronomers then turned to Chandra and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona.

The Chandra data revealed X-ray sources—a telltale sign of material being consumed by the black holes—at the bright centers of each galaxy in the merger, exactly where scientists expect supermassive black holes to reside. Chandra and NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) also found evidence for large amounts of gas and dust around one of the black holes, typical for a merging black hole system.

Meanwhile, optical light data from SDSS and LBT showed characteristic spectral signatures of material being consumed by the three supermassive black holes.

"Optical spectra contain a wealth of information about a galaxy," said co-author Christina Manzano-King of University of California, Riverside. "They are commonly used to identify actively accreting supermassive black holes and can reflect the impact they have on the galaxies they inhabit."

One reason it is difficult to find a triplet of supermassive black holes is that they are likely to be shrouded in gas and dust, blocking much of their light. The infrared images from WISE, the infrared spectra from LBT and the X-ray images from Chandra bypass this issue, because infrared and X-ray light pierce clouds of gas much more easily than optical light.

"Through the use of these major observatories, we have identified a new way of identifying triple supermassive black holes. Each telescope gives us a different clue about what's going on in these systems," said Pfeifle. "We hope to extend our work to find more triples using the same technique."

"Dual and triple black holes are exceedingly rare," said co-author Shobita Satyapal, also of George Mason, "but such systems are actually a natural consequence of galaxy mergers, which we think is how galaxies grow and evolve."

Three supermassive black holes merging behave differently than just a pair. When there are three such black holes interacting, a pair should merge into a larger black hole much faster than if the two were alone. This may be a solution to a theoretical conundrum called the "final parsec problem," in which two supermassive black holes can approach to within a few light-years of each other, but would need some extra pull inwards to merge because of the excess energy they carry in their orbits. The influence of a third black hole, as in SDSS J0849+1114, could finally bring them together.

Computer simulations have shown that 16% of pairs of in colliding galaxies will have interacted with a third supermassive black hole before they merge. Such mergers will produce ripples through spacetime called . These waves will have lower frequencies than the National Science Foundation's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and European Virgo gravitational-wave detector can detect. However, they may be detectable with radio observations of pulsars, as well as future space observatories, such as the European Space Agency's Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), which will detect black holes up to one million solar masses.


Explore further

Astronomers discover eight buried dual AGN candidates

More information: "A Triple AGN in a Mid-Infrared Selected Late Stage Galaxy Merger," Ryan W. Pfeifle et al., 2019, Astrophysical Journal: arxiv.org/abs/1908.01732
Journal information: Astrophysical Journal

Citation: Found: three black holes on collision course (2019, September 25) retrieved 15 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-09-black-holes-collision.html
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Sep 25, 2019
It's just three galaxies on course for collision, it happens all over the Universe & is very common believe it or not.

In fact there are many optical visuals of galactic clusters colliding with one another in a Universe that is supposed to be EXPANDING?

Sep 25, 2019
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 25, 2019
In fact there are many optical visuals of galactic clusters colliding with one another in a Universe that is supposed to be EXPANDING?
The universe *is* expanding, and in fact at a slightly accelerated rate, but not on the scale of galaxies. Galactic clusters like our own are gravitationally bound. Our cluster is called "Local Group", it contains 40 galaxies which are dominated by Andromeda and the Milky Way, has a diameter of roughly 10 million light years and will eventually merge into a giant galaxy. It is gravitationally bound because its 10 million light year diameter is smaller than the distance when dark energy starts to dominate gravity.

However our supercluster (a "cluster of clusters") Laniakea is *not* gravitationally bound. Due to its immense size the repulsion of dark energy is stronger than the gravitational attraction between its clusters, so it will disperse to multiple clusters (which will then merge into huge galaxies) in the far future.

Sep 25, 2019
It is gravitationally bound because its 10 million light year diameter is smaller than the distance when dark energy starts to dominate gravity.
......how do you know this? If it is as factual as you conjecture, then WHERE in the Universe is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy) suspended, as must be so because Entropy & Dark Energy are diametric opposites? Astronomers never respond to this question, maybe you'd like to take YOUR best stab at it?

Sep 25, 2019
oh deer, benni

there yah go...
equating those photographs of you sucking on your own toes
with a colonoscopy

Sep 25, 2019
A Conglomerating of Galaxies

Benni> It's just three galaxies on course for collision, it happens all over the Universe & is very common believe it or not.

In fact there are many optical visuals of galactic clusters colliding with one another in a Universe that is supposed to be EXPANDING?

It is not three blackholes colliding
it is not three galaxies colliding
It is three galaxies gravitational conglomerating

Sep 25, 2019
It's just three galaxies on course for collision, it happens all over the Universe & is very common believe it or not.

In fact there are many optical visuals of galactic clusters colliding with one another in a Universe that is supposed to be EXPANDING?
There will be optical clusters in an expanding model, contracting model, or Hoyle model.

Sep 25, 2019
It is gravitationally bound because its 10 million light year diameter is smaller than the distance when dark energy starts to dominate gravity.
......how do you know this? If it is as factual as you conjecture, then WHERE in the Universe is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy) suspended, as must be so because Entropy & Dark Energy are diametric opposites? Astronomers never respond to this question, maybe you'd like to take YOUR best stab at it?


Sorry? Where has this 'question' been posed to astroPHYSICISTS in the scientific literature? It hasn't, because it doesn't apply. Only idiots like you think it does. Go clean some toilets.

Sep 25, 2019
@Benni's forgotten that the 2LOT only applies in a closed system, and @Benni hasn't shown that the universe is a closed system.

Sep 25, 2019
Yes indeed. You've got that right. The Universe IS a closed system. Thanks for acknowledging that truth now.

Sep 25, 2019
@Benni's forgotten that the 2LOT only applies in a closed system, and @Benni hasn't shown that the universe is a closed system.
......then what is your proof it isn't a closed system?

Scientists have already established that ENTROPY, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, works to absolute perfection throughout the entirety of the solar system & the Milky Way Galaxy. What happens in one galaxy with regard to distribution of energy, is the same with all of them or stars could not exist to generate the energy to create the motion that makes galaxies move.

The entire Universe is inside a bubble shell structure, if it were not, ENTROPY would be zero right now & we wouldn't be here reading Pop-Cosmology psycho-babble from you, someone who has never spent a day in a Thermodynamics classroom in college.

So you really do think the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is in suspension somewhere in the Universe, give us an example.

Sep 25, 2019
thanks sillyegg
that last comment of yours is so ridiculous,
it's downright ludicrous!

thanks for making me seem more sensible

Sep 25, 2019
oh deer benni

which specific scientist would ever accept your interpretation of their work?

Sep 25, 2019
thanks for making me seem more sensible

Nice try willis. What an oxymoron.
You do know that, you have to first be sensible in order to seem more sensible...right...er...never mind.

Sep 26, 2019
What an idiot!

Hi Benni, how about we take the discussion to the forums? Wouldn't that be great?
Here: https://www.physicsforums.com
Looking forward to it.
Run Benni, run.
HA, ha.

Sep 26, 2019
@antigoracle:

thanks for making me seem more sensible

Nice try willis. What an oxymoron.
You do know that, you have to first be sensible in order to seem more sensible...right...er...never mind.


You've reached a new low. Now, you're down to making false statements about the English language. As you might've known, had you paid any attention in primary school, the use of the adjective "more" simply makes for a comparison - here's an example: "antigoracle and egg are both pretty damn deranged, but today, egg seems to be more sensible than antigoracle".

Let me ask you a question - do you have any self-respect? Because the way you're putting yourself on display, as a hack, an extremist and a dimwit, strongly suggests that you don't.

Sep 26, 2019
^^^^^^
I feel like a green pasture, they are sending more and more jackasses my way.
So jackass, there must be something to compare. Then again, today a jackass like you got nothing, but tomorrow, you'll be back with more nothing.

Sep 26, 2019
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 26, 2019
^^^^^^
I feel like a green pasture, they are sending more and more jackasses my way.
So jackass, there must be something to compare. Then again, today a jackass like you got nothing, but tomorrow, you'll be back with more nothing.


Still with the donkey fetish! Weird.

Sep 26, 2019
^^^^^^
Jackass keeps following me. I rest my case.

Sep 26, 2019
auntieoral blubbers about the sane people disrespecting him
then feverishly works at earning our contempt

Sep 27, 2019
@antigoracle:

thanks for making me seem more sensible

Nice try willis. What an oxymoron.
You do know that, you have to first be sensible in order to seem more sensible...right...er...never mind.


You've reached... Now, you're down to making false statements about the English language. As you might've known, had you paid any attention in primary school, the use of the adjective "more" simply makes for a comparison - here's an example: "antigoracle and egg are both pretty damn deranged, but today, egg seems to be more sensible than antigoracle".

Let me ask you a question - do you have any self-respect? Because the way you're putting yourself on display, as a hack, an extremist and a dimwit, strongly suggests that you don't.
says TQuinn

Your delving into what you confusedly proclaim as their personalities only marks you as not too concerned about the science issues, but only what you can make of your OWN attitude toward those whom you don't know.

Sep 27, 2019
-contd-
As usual, rrwillsj comes into every phorum with the purpose of wanting to be the catalyst for an argument between herself, antigoracle and Castrovagina, and quite often, myself. Why does this lonely creature do this? Is it due diligence to opportunities for giving her a 'starring role' in the next verbal donnybrook that renders the science article more or less forgotten, while the verbal abuse goes on emanating from rrwillsj, CastroV, and some others who want to join in the fray?
ThomasQuinn would do well to keep to the science and not deal in his presumed personalities of others.

Sep 27, 2019
thanks sillyegg
that last comment of yours is so ridiculous,
it's downright ludicrous!

thanks for making me seem more sensible
says rrwillsj

Only in your dreams could you ever be thought of as (more?) sensible. Try to refute what I have said if you THINK you are able to. I'll wait to read it, although I KNOW you can't do it.

Sep 27, 2019
Only in your dreams could you ever be thought of as (more?) sensible. Try to refute what I have said if you THINK you are able to. I'll wait to read it, although I KNOW you can't do it.


Lol. Nobody needs to refute anything a clown like you says. Due to you being as dumb as a bag of spanners. Now go away, and stop polluting the internet with your mindless drivel.

Sep 28, 2019
Only in your dreams could you ever be thought of as (more?) sensible. Try to refute what I have said if you THINK you are able to. I'll wait to read it, although I KNOW you can't do it.


Lol. Nobody needs to refute anything a clown like you says. Due to you being as dumb as a bag of spanners. Now go away, and stop polluting the internet with your mindless drivel.


Insanity becomes you, Castrovagina. You are trying to get into the good graces of rrwillsj by telling me to "go away"? And yet, nobody has ever read any verbal discourse passing between you and williejoe, as though you choose to ignore her rantings. And now you are defending rrwilliejoe as though you both have been the best of buddies "like forever". BFF?
Well, that's fine, and I hope to see that you and rrwillsj decide to have lots of social intercourse together in this site, instead of basically ignoring each other as you both have been doing.

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