Scientists have been stunned over the discovery of three black holes on a collision course with one another, in what Science Alert is calling “an unimaginably epic event.” Even more importantly, the findings could help provide the key to unlocking an astrological mystery.
The astrophysicists behind the discovery said that it took them by surprise.
“We were only looking for pairs of black holes at the time, and yet, through our selection technique, we stumbled upon this amazing system,” said first author Ryan Pfeifle of George Mason University.
The triple system is not just incredibly unusual, but difficult to find. The researchers behind the findings only noticed the three black holes due to the use of several different types of telescopes.
“Dual and triple black holes are exceedingly rare, but such systems are actually a natural consequence of galaxy mergers, which we think is how galaxies grow and evolve,” added co-author and fellow George Mason physicist Shobita Satyapal.
What is most exciting about this for scientists is that it could be the answer to the elusive “final parsec problem.”
Though the grandiose name sounds like something out of a time-travelers science fiction novel, it actually refers to the conundrum of two black holes unable to merge, despite being on a collision course.
Though it would make sense for the two massively gravitational masses to merge, they do not. Instead, their excessive orbital energy — or lack thereof — stops them from ever truly colliding.
The process is complicated. When the two come within a few light-years of each other, they begin to “slingshot” back and forth other materials in their vicinity, most often stars. With each of these slingshots, the black holes lose some of their orbital energy in the process.
As they lose more and more of this orbital energy, they slow down and approach each other more and more closely, eventually coming within just a few parsecs of one another.
However, as they get closer, they use up all the material that could help shed their orbital energy, and the merging process grinds to a halt.
This has confounded astrophysicists. The theory states that black holes should not be able to merge, and yet there was proof in the universe that they had.
In fact, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, known as LIGO, suggests that black holes are merging at the rate of one a week.
This third black hole has perhaps given scientists the solution they needed. A third black hole would give the two black holes the needed “boost” that would get them to merge.
Moreover, computer simulations seem to support this new hypothesis. According to the virtual scenarios, about 16 percent of pairs of supermassive black holes in colliding galaxies “will have interacted with a third supermassive black hole before they merge.”
The field of black holes has been a recent hot bed of activity, like a recent finding of a black hole so large, it “should not exist,” as previously reported by The Inquisitr.