Pair of Merging Supermassive Black Holes Will Create a Flare-Up in April

Together, they're being called "Spikey."
Fabienne Lang
Two black holesNASA

There's a lot of action up in the Universe that's easily unnoticeable in our day to day lives. 

Astronomers, though, keep a close eye on what's going on up there. One such focus has been on tracking bright bursts of high-energy particles, in particular, a flare-up back in 2011 that the Kepler telescope picked up.


These flares are speculated to be two supermassive black holes trapped in separate galaxies, circling each other. Astronomers have named the cosmic object "Spikey," and it's now due to flare up once more.

Supermassive black holes nearing each other

As they get closer and closer to one another, supermassive black holes start to eat up dust and gas bits and then release these particles back out into Space. 

These come out as high-energy flares, which can be observed by telescopes, and when two are so near each other, they're typically on a collision course. 

Spikey is on such a course, however, astronomers warn you not to hold your breath in anticipation as this collision won't happen for another 100,000 or so years

Two Harvard astrophysicists first shared this theory back in 2017, saying gravitational lensing could capture the astronomical sight. Rosanne Di Stefano, one of the Harvard astrophysicists, said "It’s a very distinctive signature."

These flare-ups are hard to pin down given their unpredictable nature, however, Di Stefano and her colleague Daniel D'Orazio studied the Kepler 2011 data and have predicted that such a flare-up will occur again in April this year. 

The team has scheduled time on NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to observe the phenomenon. The flare-up is predicted to last 10 days, and if the astronomers are indeed able to capture it this would provide a great blueprint on how to observe future supermassive black hole systems.


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