An astrophysicist from the University of Oklahoma along with his Chinese counterpart have discovered two massive black holes – both differing in sizes in the core of Markarian 231 which happens to be the closest quasar to the Earth.
The large black hole is about 150 million times bigger than the sun while the smaller one is four million times the mass of the sun. Both black holes are revolving around each other. According to some calculations, it takes them 1.2 years to complete an orbit.
The scientists used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the far away holes. These black holes make a ‘binary black hole’ system, in which two black holes orbit around each other. Marakarian 231, the galaxy in which the holes are discovered, is located 600 million light years away from our planet. The galaxy was discovered in 1969.
“We’re extremely excited about this finding because it not only shows the existence of a close binary black hole in Mrk 231, but also paves a new way to systemically search binary black holes via the nature of their ultraviolet light emission.” said Xinyu Dai, a professor in the University of Oklahoma. The University professor has collaborated with Youjun Lu of National Astronomical Observations of China.
Mrk 231, also know by the name ‘starburst’ galaxy, is a powerhouse of star formation as it births stars at a rate 100 times faster than that of the Milky Way galaxy. The galaxy is also an asymmetrical shape showing that billions of stars are still in the process of settling down.
“The structure of our universe, such as those giant galaxies and clusters of galaxies, grows by merging smaller systems into larger ones and binary black holes are natural consequences of these mergers of galaxies” he added.
The new discovery could be very useful in the study of quasars, the super-bright- emissions blasting from the galaxies in the distant universe. This research was published in the Astrophysical Journal.
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