Keck Telescope spots black holes close to merging
Credit: S. G. Djorgovski, H. Fu, et al., Caltech
The US observing team took a very close look at 50 active galaxies suspected of containing more than one object at their centre. To get the best image possible, they had to adapt the telescope to compensate for the shimmering effect of the Earth’s atmosphere. The solution was to use the laser-guided-star adaptive optics system in place at Keck, which removes the atmospheric blur, making the images appear as if they were taken from a space telescope. Out of the 50 galaxies observed, they found that 16 had two bright spots at the centre of the galaxy, instead of one, indicating a binary SMBH system. The SMBH’s closest to each other out of the 16 (as shown above) were a mere 2,000 light years apart, which is between 100 and 1,000 times closer than previously known. This discovery is very exiting in that it expands our knowledge and understanding of the formation of large galaxies from smaller ones, and allows us to deduce a better understanding of the evolution of the Universe.
[Story Credit: Elliott Laidler]