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'Double Black Hole' Powers Quasar in Neighboring Galaxy

Image: 'Double Black Hole' Powers Quasar in Neighboring Galaxy
An artist's illustration of a binary black hole found in the center of the nearest quasar to Earth, Markarian 231. (NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon – STScI)

By    |   Monday, 31 Aug 2015 07:35 AM

A quasar powered by a "double black hole" has been found by astronomers in the galaxy nearest to Earth.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers recently discovered that Markarian 231 was being energized by the two centrally-located black holes whirling about each other, said NASA's website.

The study of the double black hole was detailed in the Aug. 14 edition of the science publication The Astrophysical Journal.

Astronomers believe that, like a pair of spinning skaters, the twin black holes generate tremendous amounts of energy that causes the host galaxy' core to outshine the glow of its population of billions of stars.

"We are extremely excited about this finding because it not only shows the existence of a close binary black hole in Markarian 231, but also paves a new way to systematically search binary black holes via the nature of their ultraviolet light emission," said Youjun Lu, of the National Astronomical Observatories of China, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Researchers discovered the double black hole while examining data from Hubble that showed an unexplained hole in the quasar's ring of gas, said Popular Science.

After completing modeling studies, astronomers determined the quasar must be powered by two black holes, a larger one and a small one, twirling around each other.

"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," Xinyu Dai of the University of Oklahoma, who is a co-investigator in the black hole study, told NASA.

The larger black hole has been estimated by astronomers to be about 150 million times the mass of the sun, and it smaller companion weighs about four million solar masses, said NASA. The double black hole completes an orbit around each other every 1.2 years.

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A quasar powered by a "double black hole" has been found by astronomers in the galaxy nearest to Earth.
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2015-35-31
Monday, 31 Aug 2015 07:35 AM
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