Galaxy May Host ‘Death Spiral’ Of Two Black Holes Becoming One

Two black holes in the middle of a galaxy are gravitationally bound to each other and may be starting to merge, according to a new study.

Astronomers came to that conclusion after studying puzzling behavior in what is known as WISE J233237.05-505643.5, a discovery that came from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Follow-up studies came from the Australian Telescope Compact Array and the Gemini South telescope in Chile.

“We think the jet of one black hole is being wiggled by the other, like a dance with ribbons,” stated research leader Chao-Wei Tsai of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “If so, it is likely the two black holes are fairly close and gravitationally entwined.”

“The dance of these black hole duos starts out slowly, with the objects circling each other at a distance of about a few thousand light-years,’ NASA added in a press release. “So far, only a few handfuls of supermassive black holes have been conclusively identified in this early phase of merging. As the black holes continue to spiral in toward each other, they get closer, separated by just a few light-years. ”

You can read more details of the find at a press release here, or at this Arxiv paper.

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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