Scientists Discover The Most Epic Pair of Supermassive Black Holes Ever Seen

A galaxy some 750 million light-years away has been discovered hosting the heftiest pair of supermassive black holes we've ever seen.


The Heftiest Pair of Supermassive Black Holes

Scientists have discovered a galaxy located 750 million light-years away that contains the largest pair of supermassive black holes ever observed.

With a combined mass of 28 billion times that of the Sun, these black holes, located in a galaxy called B2 0402+379, represent the most massive black hole binary ever found.

The unique properties and behavior displayed by this pair of black holes are providing valuable insights into the mysteries of their growth and formation.

The Mystery Surrounding the Growth of Supermassive Black Holes

The growth process of black holes to supermassive sizes is not yet fully understood.

Smaller black holes form from the collapsed cores of massive stars, but how they grow to become supermassive remains a mystery.

Researchers speculate that if small black holes can merge, large ones should also be able to merge through a series of hierarchical mergers, eventually forming the giant black holes found at the centers of galaxies.

The Final Parsec Problem

One potential problem in the merging process of black holes is known as the final parsec problem.

As black holes in binary systems come closer together, they shed their orbital momentum and transfer it to nearby stars and gas through gravitational waves.

However, at a distance of around a parsec, or 3.2 light-years, the space available for shedding energy becomes too small, causing the orbital decay to stall. This problem is observed in the binary supermassive black hole of B2 0402+379.


The Stalled Orbital Decay of B2 0402+379

A team of astrophysicists studying B2 0402+379 found that the binary supermassive black hole in this galaxy has separated by a distance of 7.3 parsecs, or 24 light-years, for approximately 3 million years.

The analysis suggests that the previous orbital decay ejected numerous stars from the vicinity of the black holes, leaving no remaining stars onto which the black holes can transfer their orbital momentum.

While the future of this binary system remains uncertain, further investigations into the presence of gas within the galaxy may provide more insights into whether the black holes can eventually merge or remain in their current state.