Two Supermassive Black Hole Discovered in One Quasar Near Earth

First Posted: Aug 28, 2015 07:36 AM EDT

Researchers have made an unusual discovery. They've found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, which is the nearest quasar to Earth. Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the two black holes are evidence of binary black holes.

In this latest study, the researchers looked at ultraviolet radiation emitted from the center of Mrk 231 from Hubble observations. Then, they applied a model developed by Lu to the spectrum of the galaxy. As a result, the scientists were able to predict the existence of the binary black holes in Mrk 231.

"We are 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 systematically search binary black holes via the nature of their ultravioelet light emission," said Youjun Lu, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Giant galaxies and clusters of galaxies grow by merging smaller systems into larger ones. Binary black holes are actually the natural consequences of these mergers of galaxies. For example, over time the two black holes discovered in Mrk 231 will collide and merge to form a quasar with a supermassive black hole.

The findings reveal about this nearby quasar. More specifically, it suggests that supermassive black holes assemble their masses through violent mergers. This, in turn, may tell scientists a bit more about galaxy evolution and the evolution of the brightest objects in our universe: quasars.

The findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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