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Scientists discover first binary black hole

Updated: 09 14 , 2015 14:08
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BEIJING, Sept. 2 -- Scientists have discovered clear proof of two supermassive black holes orbiting each other within the same galaxy at the nearest quasar Markarian 231 (Mrk 231).

This is the first proven case of supermassive binary black holes (BBHs), according to research published in the Astrophysical Journal, Volume 809, Number 2.

Lu Youjun and Yan Changshuo from the National Astronomical Observatories with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dai Xinyu from the University of Oklahoma and Yu Qingjuan from the Peking University all took part in the research.

Scientists have spent the past several decades searching for BBHs among quasars, but observational evidence for BBHs remained elusive and ambiguous.

Analyzing the continuous spectrum of Mrk 231, the team discovered the largest of the two black holes was 150 million times the mass of the sun, with the secondary four million times the mass of the sun - sizes they describe as "astonishing." The two orbit each other every 1.2 years.

Their orbit emits gravitational waves and lose energy, which will result in a collision after hundreds of thousand of years.

"The discovery will be of great importance to further studies on BBHs, quasars, gravitational waves and basic gravity theory."

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