Analysis of a collision between two black holes in a distant region of space has revealed the existence of light, the first time such an association has been made with the phenomenon.
The merger of the two cosmic beasts was reported after a gravitational wave named S190521g was detected in May 2019 by the twin facilities of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US and the Virgo Observatory in Italy. .
Gravitational waves are caused by objects that move at very high speeds, such as when two black holes orbit and then merge with each other. Significant gravitational waves indicate a curvature in space-time.
Surprisingly, the Zwicky Transitional Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California, had its telescope focused on the same region of space at the same time, and detected an explosive flare nearby.
The research, published in the astrophysical journal Physical Review Letters on Thursday, is the first record of light associated with a black hole collision.
The revelation could help test the existing theory that black hole mergers regularly occur in regions of material known as ‘accretion disks’ that surround supermassive black holes. Before the discovery, black holes were thought to merge into stellar cemeteries, where there is little gas or dust that can heat up and glow.
“The expectation has always been that there would be no electromagnetic counterpart” To the gravitational wave signal from the merger, Matthew Graham, ZTF’s chief scientist and first author of the study, explained to CNET.
However, with the existence of a flare, and therefore light, which is a form of electromagnetic radiation, it appears that this assumption is incorrect and that black holes may exist and exist in regions with matter that can be heated or ignited .
Accretion Discs are intense environments filled with gas, dust, stars, and black holes. The research team believed it was in such a location that the pair of black holes merged, an act that disturbed dust and debris from the surrounding space and caused the eruption as a result.
“The new fused black hole gets this kick and there is material being dragged along with it.” [It] collide with this gaseous environment around you and you get a head-on collision: that’s the initial cause of the eruption “ Graham told CNET.
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The LIGO / Virgo collaboration has yet to confirm what kind of colossal cosmic event occurred, but if it were as researchers suspect, the mass of the fused black hole would now be around 150 solar masses, which would be the largest ever recorded.
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