The ‘Fi­nal Par­sec Prob­lem’

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Two black holes are en­twined in a grav­i­ta­tional tango in this artist’s con­cep­tion. Su­per­mas­sive black holes at the hearts of gal­ax­ies are thought to form through the merg­ing of smaller, yet still mas­sive black holes, such as the ones de­picted here. NASA

Bi­nary black holes, as the name sug­gests, are a sys­tem com­posed of two black holes locked in close or­bit around each other. Since most gal­ax­ies in the uni­verse are be­lieved to har­bor one su­per­mas­sive black hole at their cen­ter, the pres­ence of a bi­nary sys­tem is con­clu­sive ev­i­dence of a ga­lac­tic merger. Although only a few can­di­dates for such a sys­tem have ever been de­tected, as­tronomers at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park, now be­lieve that they have dis­cov­ered in­con­tro­vert­ible ev­i­dence of such black-hole twins.

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