The universe is vast and contains billions of objects, which exist in an immense space-time that humans are just beginning to understand. So it's a curiosity, but not surprising, when an object that is believed to be two stars in orbit and is believed to be part of the Andromeda galaxy, the galaxy closest to Earth, only 2.5 million light-years from the Earth, it is revealed as 1,000 times more distant. A new work shows that the object known as J0045 + 41 is probably not a star, but a pair of giant black holes that orbit each other very closely, not millions, but billions of light-years away. A document describing this new result was accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Periodic peer-reviewed (online pre-press). A November 30, 2017 statement from the Chandra X-ray Observatory said:
It seems that even black holes can not resist the temptation to insert themselves without warning in photographs. A cosmic photo-bomb found as a background object in images from the nearby Andromeda galaxy has revealed what could be the most closely watched pair of supermbadive black holes.
Astronomers now believe that J0045 + 41 is about 2,600 million light years from Earth, and they are now estimating the total mbad of these two supermbadive black holes at approximately 200 million times that of our sun.
The research team combined the data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory with the spectra of the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. showing that J0045 + 41 probably contained at least one supermbadive black hole. Using data from the Palomar Transient Factory telescopes in California, the team found repetitive variations in the light of J0045 + 41, an indicator of the presence of two giant black holes in orbit.
If these researchers are right, the separation between the two giant black holes can be only a few hundred times the distance between our Earth and the sun. This corresponds to less than 1/100 of a light year. In comparison, the star closest to our sun is about four light-years away. Chandra's statement read:
Such a system could be formed as a result of the fusion, billions of years before, of two galaxies that contained a supermbadive black hole. In their current close separation, the two black holes inevitably get closer while emitting gravitational waves.
And so, little by little, our universe becomes more knowable!
This composite image shows the Chandra X-ray Observatory data (blue in the box) from the source known as J0045 + 41, within the context of Andromeda optical images from the Hubble Space Telescope. In the inserted image, the north is up and in the large image the north is in the lower right. Andromeda, also known as M31, is a spiral galaxy located about 2.5 million light-years from Earth. Image via Chandra.
In short: astronomers thought that the source known as J0045 + 41 was a binary star system, part of the nearby Andromeda galaxy, but new work shows that the source is 1,000 times more distant and could be the most closely coupled pair of supermbadive black holes never seen.
Source: A speck on the Andromeda disk: a badly identified newspaper AGN behind M31