NASA’s New Supercomputer Simulation Reveals Spiraling Supermassive Black Holes

NASA's team of astrophysicists have laid out a spectacular prediction for what happens when two supermassive black holes meet.
Shelby Rogers

NASA’s most recent simulation is helping researchers understand more about how supermassive black holes function. These black holes often weigh millions to billions of times more than our Sun, but little is known about what happens if they should collide.

Using a supercomputer, researchers from the Goddard Space Flight Center finally have an idea as to what two black holes of this size would do if they interacted. The team used the physical effects established by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Gas in those systems would glow mostly ultraviolet and X-ray light, according to NASA.  

“We know galaxies with central supermassive black holes combine all the time in the universe, yet we only see a small fraction of galaxies with two of them near their centers,” said Scott Noble, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The pairs we do see aren’t emitting strong gravitational-wave signals because they’re too far away from each other. Our goal is to identify — with light alone — even closer pairs from which gravitational-wave signals may be detected in the future.”

The NASA team also reminded us of this rather unsettling bit of information. Nearly every galaxy the size of the Milky Way or larger has a supermassive black hole at its heart. For decades, NASA has observed these