Monday, December 8, 2008
Is It Snap, Crackle and Pop When Galaxies and Black Holes Merge ? Part II
There is general agreement among astrophysicists, today, that most galaxies contain black holes at their center. It is, therefore, essentially a given that when galaxies merge, so do their resident black holes. Additionally, these same scientists are also hypothesizing that black holes are key controllers of the overall function and integrity of the galaxies they inhabit.
Note: In the image on the top left, "Scientists are watching two supermassive black holes spiral towards each other near the center of a galaxy cluster named Abell 400. Shown in this X-ray/radio composite image are the multi-million degree radio jets emanating from the black holes." Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/AIfA/D.Hudson & T.Reiprich et al.; Radio: NRAO/VLA/NRL
Let's stop here and take a moment to view this animation of merging black holes. This is a computer animation from NASA and as you watch keep in mind that, "According to Einstein's math, when two massive black holes merge, all of space jiggles like a bowl of Jell-O as gravitational waves race out from the collision at light speed.
When we watched the animation above, we sensed the intensity and drama of these merging black holes and looked for an even more descriptive and dramatic representation of this unification of celestial power. We found an excellent animation done by the Chandra project at Harvard University, and to dramatize it further we selected a snap from that animation and added a musical score to it. We call it the power dance. Please view the entire Chandra/Harvard animation by clicking here.
The increased research by astrophysicists into black holes, dark energy, and dark matter is yielding a new appreciation for Einstein's theories of relativity (special and general)and a strong theoretical move toward seeing a definite link between those theories and quantum physics. All of this is leading to renewed and new hypotheses on both the origin and the future of the universe. Although the "Big Bang" concept is still the most accepted other theories are challenging that there was ever an explosive beginning to the universe. The increased study of gravitational waves that are generated by most every action occurring in the universe promises to reveal many secrets and new understandings about our celestial environment.
LIGO and LISA gravitational wave research.
By the time gravitational waves reach Earth from distant galaxies or supermassive black holes they are quite small. For years, even though we knew they existed, we were unable to study them. Now, gravitational wave astronomy has become a new and very dynamic branch of astrophysics. Two key programs of this new astronomy are LIGO and LISA. LIGO is the acronym for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory and LISA, a satellite system, is the acronym for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna. Both are new means for detecting and evaluating gravitational waves. This new branch of astronomy will finally allow astronomers to learn exactly what is inside a black hole and about dark energy and dark matter and what they are and what they are doing. Note: The artist's concept of the LISA satellite is courtesy of the European Space Agency.
Well, we have not really answered what happens when black holes merge except they get bigger, they accrete more stars and some galaxies and hide all that they consume, except their gravitational waves. So, review the links on LIGO and LISA that we have provided and look forward to specific blog posts on gravitational wave astronomy and the secrets this science will reveal not just about black holes, but about the very earliest stages of the universe. There are going to be a lot of big surprises including a successful theory that merges quantum theory with Einstein's theories. They are already calling it quantum relativity.