Maybe not today, maybe not a year from now and not even 50 years from now, but eventually the Earth may witness a catastrophic event. It may even be the dreaded apocalypse for some in the vast universe. So, sit back, take a breath and enjoy your home planet. Life will not end, at least not by colliding black holes. What’s this you say about colliding black holes?
A monumental Collision
In about 100,000 years, two supermassive black holes will collide, at least we think they will. At the moment, they dance, as if lovers, in a tightening embrace. What we mean is, two black holes, the ones we are referring to, are only 200 billion miles apart. This may seem like quite a distance to you, but to the universe as a whole, this is extremely close. People of the future universe, brace yourselves!
A team of Caltech astronomers just recently made this discovery. It’s the closest that researchers have ever come to witnessing such a merger of black holes this size. These massive black holes are 3.5 billion years away from us, which also seems like quite a distance to cause any effect on us earthlings. But think again.
What will happen?
It’s hard to fathom the effect this collision would have on its surroundings. Think of 100 million supernovas and the effects of that. Now that’s one huge explosion, to say the least. This interaction would send a tsunami of gravitational waves tearing through time-space itself. Scientists can take this opportunity to test certain theories about the cosmos. After all, there are certain things that can only be tested in extreme conditions.
Daniel D’Orazio of the Columbia University wrote an email to the New York Times which includes this statement:
“A scientific theory is only as good as the tests which it has passed. Detection of gravitational waves is a direct probe of this region, hence the secrets of gravity.”
How did we find this?
The discovery of these close-knit neighbors was made when researchers found a quasar known as PG 1302-102. The quasar flickering in the area where the two black holes met. It was almost as if the quasar was an emergency signal in the darkness.
In the center of almost all galaxies is where you will find supermassive black holes. If this collision were to occur in our own Milky Way, our sun, planets and stars would be scattered like hurricane debris. If anything lives in the area of the collision, it would be time to them to say their farewells, well, possibly. Let’s just be thankful that we are far away and have thousands of years to prepare.
Maybe not today and not next year, but someday all that we know will be gone, just as we will. For now, let’s enjoy the other lights and drama from the heavens.
Image Credit: P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF