Astronomers discovered a Binary supermassive black hole; the site of future gravitational waves detection

5 months ago

A group of astronomers from Argentina, Spain, Italy, the USA and India has discovered a binary supermassive black hole system in the gravitationally lensed blazar AO 0235+164 using extensive optical photometric observations carried out around the globe during the last 4 decades (1982 – 2019). This black hole could be a strong candidate for future detection of gravitational waves (GWs).

Astronomers discovered periodic double-peaked flaring events at an interval of around 8 years, and the separations between two peaks of these flares are around 2 years. Five such periodic patterns were detected, and it was predicted that the next such flaring event will occur between November 2022 and May 2025. To confirm the next periodic pattern, a global optical photometric monitoring campaign has been initiated under WEBT (Whole Earth Blazar Telescope) consortium.

The team detected five sets of double-peaked flaring activities during time ranges —  January 1982 – October 1984, March 1989 – July 1993, April 1996 – March 2001, June 2006 – June 2009 and May 2014 – May 2017.

What is a Blazar?

Blazars are supermassive black holes (SMBH) feeding on gas in the heart of a very distant galaxy and are among the most luminous and energetic objects in the Universe. When the jet, composed of ionized matter travelling at nearly the speed of light, is pointed towards an observer, it is called a blazar.

The blazar AO 0235+164 is the first binary SMBH gravitationally lensed system, which will be a strong candidate of its kind for future detection of gravitational waves (GWs) using the pulsar timing array and future space-based GW detectors. 

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Seema Jain

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