What Happens When Three Black Holes Collide?

Article written: 9 Apr , 2008
Updated: 26 Apr , 2016
by

The consequences of two black holes colliding may be huge, the energy produced by such a collision could even be detected by observatories here on Earth. Ripples in space-time will wash over the Universe as gravitational waves and are predicted to be detected as they pass through the Solar System. Taking this idea one step further, what would happen if three black holes collide? Sound like science fiction? Well it’s not, and there is observational evidence that three black holes can cluster together, possibly colliding after some highly complex orbits that can only be calculated by the most powerful computers available to researchers…

Caltech/EPFL)
Back in January 2007, a quasar triplet was observed over 10 billion light years away. Quasars are generated by the supermassive black holes eating away at the core of active galaxies. Using the powerful W. M. Keck Observatory, researchers from Caltech were able to peer back in time (10 billion years) to see a period in the Universe’s life when active galaxies and black hole mergers would have been fairly common events (when compared to the calmer Universe of today). They observed three tightly packed quasars, an unprecedented discovery.

Now, scientists Manuela Campanelli, Carlos Lousto and Yosef Zlochower, all working at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, have simulated the highly complex mechanisms behind three interacting and merging supermassive black holes, much like the situation observed by Keck in 2007. The same group have worked on calculating the collision of two black holes before and have written a code that is powerful enough to simulate the collision of up to 22 black holes. However, 22 black holes probably wouldn’t collide naturally, this simply demonstrates the stability of the code, “Twenty-two is not going to happen in reality, but three or four can happen,” says Yosef Zlochower, an assistant professor. “We realized that the code itself really didn’t care how many black holes there were. As long as we could specify where they were located – and had enough computer power – we could track them.

These simulations are of paramount importance to the gravitational wave detectors such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). So far there has been no firm evidence to come from these detectors, but more time is needed, the LIGO detector requires several years of “exposure time” to collect enough data and remove observational “noise”. But what do gravitational wave astronomers look for? This is the very reason many different cosmic scenarios are being simulated so the characteristics of events like two or three black holes mergers can be identified from their gravitational wave signature.

Gravitational wave astronomers “need to know what to look for in the data they acquire otherwise it will look like just noise. If you know what to look for you can confirm the existence of gravitational waves. That’s why they need all these theoretical predictions.” – Manuela Campanelli, director of RIT’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation.

Source: RIT University News


19 Responses

  1. esya says

    I think it can make know what will happens in the future. and we can prepare….for the future

  2. Crystal Mitchell says

    What is on the other side of the black hole once things are sucked in and what will happen to earth if three black holes collide?

  3. PHWilson says

    Luckily, these type events are not of this time in history, but in an earlier chaos, I hope.

    The greateat tsunami passes thru the deep ocean and would appear another small swell as it passed under your boat. I imagine searching for grav waves would be far more difficult. Of course, the solution may be similar in concept.

  4. Matthias says

    @Essel: I think they can, if the proverbial Butterfly doesn’t flap first.

    OK, seriously: IF they have high enough amplitude, gravitational waves can definitely trigger something on earth. But I think most of the time local triggers will be much stronger. Unless there are a few black holes about to collide in our backyard…

  5. Essel says

    Can a gravity wave event within the milky way trigger acoustic waves on earth – earthquakes and tsunamis? If they have high enough amplitude.

  6. Max Vondel says

    They haven;t detected any waves at all after decades of trying. What if they don’t exist ?

  7. Ignoramus says

    Quote: Gravitational wave astronomers “need to know what to look for in the data they acquire otherwise it will look like just noise. If you know what to look for you can confirm the existence of gravitational waves. That’s why they need all these theoretical predictions.”
    This reminds me of the Irishman saying “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”.
    Simulating what you want to see and then “seeing” it, sounds very suspect to me.

  8. Obbop says

    Nothing in the article can be found in the Bible so you folks are merely tools of Satan trying to mislead the people.

    Surely you will spend an eternity in Heck, maybe longer.

  9. Astrofreak says

    Wow, 3 of ’em. How about 5? What if 3 were supermassive and 1 was normal and another was small? How many holes could collide at one time? What happens to all that mass and energy. Ha! At least ‘ya all many finally see some “gravitrons” or something discernable about “dark/energy/dark matter” God, could this be what generates branes and other dimensions/infinite alternative universes. Maybe find Cleons out there somewhere…

  10. Jozef K says

    Haha, interesting how this becomes a religious discussion out of nowhere…

    I read a previous article on UT about predicting the outcome of two supermassive black holes colliding.. so wouldn’t the result of smaller versions be just the same? One would stay and jet off energy while the other bounces off in some direction?

  11. AJames says

    Oh Dear, Oh Dear!

    When I read this I thought this was another April’s Fools Joke.

    If you consider the true probability of three black holes existing in the one place to collide is about as probable as winning the lottery ten times in a row! The truth is that the gravitational perturbation would prevent this scenario, and in fact only two holes would merge, followed some time later by the third companion. Besides, hasn’t anyone ever heard of angular momentum.

    Anyway if this ever happened – well you might as well believe in magic!

    Note: This is likely one of the worse headline grabbing headline news story I have likely read ! Advise we stick to some form of reality, please….

  12. alokmohan says

    Hamlet said truth is stranger than fiction.

  13. hiro says

    If we want to observe the collision of 3 black hole, we should find a triple star system which has 3 super blue giants having approximate ages (so they could collapse during a short interval of time).

    I just wonder what happens to a super cluster of massive stars when they all collapse and become black holes. This chain reaction effect might do something to the Earth.

  14. bellinda nirdleg says

    Hi Ian, thanks for another of these Black hole articles I am loving so much.

    But hey, whats wrong with you ?
    I miss your bombastic descriptions of what might happen here on planet earth.

    Some scary and sensational stuff like earthquakes or blackouts or thunderstorms.

    Are you depressive somehow ?

    Where is your rhapsodic poetry of mights and woulds that used to give me goose bumps.

    Please dont stop it.

    Make some nice allegories about roaring monster holes eating matter while farting waves to the dark matter resonance modes of the great attractor’s quantum well…….or something.

    Your loving fangirl Bellinda

  15. RUF says

    Would not the so-called “3-body interactions” cause one BH to fly off with incredible velocity? This aricle is nothing but a big “What if…?”

  16. Mike Parus says

    Black holes. Hmmm. It sounds like another one of those theories that has complex numbers at its mathematical foundation. I’m listening, but needless to say I’m skeptical.

  17. pradipta says

    From the ancestral time the world space research established on blind theory. We although demand that we have discovered lots of mysteries viz. milk ways, galaxies, nebulas, white drafts, black holes etcs., in real they are creation of space mirror. SPACE MIRROR is the truth and hidden mystery of the space. Since we are unknown about space mirror, our research has diverted from original truth and we have spent lots of time and money behind the false truth.
    In short it can not be explain. Therefore it invites to visit http://www.spacemirrormystery.com to know the great truth.

  18. bellinda birdleg says

    hey pardipta that is really cool.

    Ian should write an article about that so that I can understand it better.

    Are there also black holes in your mirror ?
    What about some mirrors produced by LHC in May ?
    Can earth be mirrored away ?

    Ian please write an article. Please

  19. kumar says

    hey……can we harness a mini black hole to travel time???.u know….the one which doesnt destroy us before we do tht!?? huh…i am no scientist…jus a high skool student..parden the mistakes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…………and…….are there other universes like ours….linked by a white hole???…..

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