Astronomers have spotted a distant pair of titanic black holes that are headed for a collision, with each black hole's mass being more than 800 million times that of the sun. And as the two gradually draw closer together in a death spiral, they will be sending gravitational waves rippling through space-time.
According to the study, led by Andy Goulding, an associate research scholar at Princeton University. Goulding, Mingarelli and collaborators from Princeton and the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC; the gravitational waves emanating from the supermassive black hole pair will dwarf those previously detected from the mergers of much smaller black holes and neutron stars.
Speaking about the same, co-discoverer Chiara Mingarelli said, "Supermassive black hole binaries produce the loudest gravitational waves in the universe."
The results of the study were published on July 10 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Notably, the two supermassive black holes are especially interesting because they are around 2.5 billion light-years away from Earth, which basically means that the pair belong to a universe 2.5 billion years younger than our own and coincidentally, that's roughly the same amount of time the astronomers estimate the black holes will take to begin producing powerful gravitational waves.
This in turn means that even though in present-day universe, the black holes are already emitting these gravitational waves, but even at light speed the waves won't reach us for billions of years.
The discovery, however, can help scientists estimate how many nearby supermassive black holes are emitting gravitational waves that we could detect right now.
According to researchers, detecting the gravitational wave background will help resolve some of the biggest unknowns in astronomy, such as how often galaxies merge and whether supermassive black hole pairs merge at all or become stuck in a near-endless waltz around each other.