Thursday, March 05, 2009

Extremely rare binary black hole galaxy discovered

Binary star systems, a solar system like ours with two stars circling each other at the center, are pretty common. But a binary black hole galaxy, a galaxy with two black holes circling at the center, are pretty rare. So rare in fact that, "every one we find gives us precious insight into the clockwork process of the cosmos itself." (Bad Astronomy)

Recently a binary astronomer (Todd Boroson and Tod Lauer) came up with "the best candidate seen for a tightly bound binary black hole" at the heart of galaxy four billion light years from Earth.

The black holes are 1/3 of light year apart (3 trillion kilometers), but moving so fast (6,000 kilometers per second) that they circle each other every 100 years. Wow. And they're big. The black holes are at least 20 million-times the mass of our own sun, possibly 1 billion-times. For comparison, the black hole at the center of our galaxy is just 4 million solar masses.

How did these guys end up where they are? Probably when two galaxies collided billions of years ago. Eventually, the two will merge themselves as black holes like this would typically do.

(Image NOAO/AURA/NSF)

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.