back to article Boffins clock MONSTER BLACK HOLES inside quasar-hosting galaxy near Earth

Scientists have spotted two central black holes raging and skating around each other in Markarian 231 (Mrk 231) – the nearest galaxy to Earth that hosts a quasar. The binary black hole could collide in just a few 100,000 years from now, predicted astroboffins who made the discovery using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. "We are …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Artist's view of a binary black hole.

    Mr Artist, please. This doesn't look like a binary black hole at all.

    semimajor axis of ~590 AU and an orbital period of ~1.2 years

    That's around 14600 km/s on a circular orbit. Nice!

  2. regadpellagru

    Old news

    If it is to happen 100 000 years after the current visible situation, and the objects are 581 million lights-years from here, then it already happened more than half a billion years ago !

    We just need to let light the next half-billion and some years to come to us.

    Astronomy is really a funny science. We may need Douglas Adams' dictionnary for time traveller ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old news

      If it was my job, the definition would be:

      Time Traveller: This is rather a silly term, as all people are Time Travellers. In fact, all matter in the universe travels through time. It all travels forwards. The only real Time Travellers to take note of are the rude ones. Those ones don't say "hello" when they pass you, no, they say "olleh" and then proceed to disappear into the past. Never ever invite this type of Time Traveller to your wine tasting party, as they may have the nasty habit of telling you how much that bottle you just drunk would have sold for in 253 years time. Time Travellers are also banned from participating in any Lotteries, for obvious reasons. But to be extra safe, since the seventh Galactic cycle, Lottery organisers have automatically banned any winning tickets for being excepted. As odds are, these are purchased by Time Travellers. Thus, the winner is chosen at random from a hand of loosing tickets, and avoiding any cheeky, nasty, wine swigging Time Travellers from cheating them out of pocket.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Old news

        "...being excepted. ..."


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Old news

          " "...being excepted. ..."

          accepted "

          Ah thanks, obvious error, sounds right in my head, noticed wrong when said out loud. Do you accept offers as an editor?

      2. Martin Budden Bronze badge

        Re: Old news

        After too much wine tasting I get wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Old news

      It's worse. Depending on how you are moving relative to Markarian 231 (not to be confused with Spandex 12), the merger may have occurred at any time selectable of your past. It depends on m/s values, too.

      Can't be arsed to do the special relative calculations, anyone with no girlfriend tonight might be so kind...

      all people are Time Travellers

      No. All people are Time Spaghetti. That's not the same at all.

    3. Nathan 13

      Re: Old news

      Nothing happens until I see it.

      The Daily Fail told me this recently

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Old news

        The DUHLY MAIL is a bit confused about QM.

        They are using both the metaphor of a "particle having a certain position and thus being able to be labeled as having passed a certain point" and a "particle being a complex-valued probability density function (aka 'wave' to the charver public though this has nothing to do with a wave front, right and center). You can't have it both ways.

        That the 'wave' changes depending on whether you drop a grating into its environment before you extract the position information from said wave is exactly as it should be according to even naive QM.

        For the macroscopic object, you exponentially quickly collapse to the fat-arsed behaviour of massive daily objects: HERE and NOW become very important indeed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Old news

          Meanwhile, more good null experiments: Quantum 'Spookiness' Passes Toughest Test Yet.

          Yup, the quantum state is a single vector in tensor space (multiply the dimensions), not a set of independent vectors in separate spaces (add the dimensions) influencing each other at the max speed of light

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Old news

      it already happened more than half a billion years ago !

      In most contexts, this is an utterly irrelevant distinction. The propagation of information, and causality itself (if the universe is consistent and causality is maintained), are also limited to C; so "happened before we could see it" is largely a philosophical stance. When we're talking about astronomical distances, we can't be affected by it in any way until its light reaches us.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Old news

      " then it already happened more than half a billion years ago !"

      Yeah, but it's all relative...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

    That would neatly explain why most quasars are billions of light years distant from us - the universe was smaller then and collisions between galaxies much more likely than today.

    The Milky Way may therefore host a quasar in about 4 billion years when it collides with Andromeda. So not only do we have to vacate our solar system before the Sun becomes a red giant in 5 billion years or so, we have to leave the immediate vicinity of the Milky Way a billion years before that! Sure hope an FTL drive is possible, otherwise that is going to be one hell of a long trip for our great^1000000 grandchildren...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

      Just make sure you are not in the axis of ejecta of this devil's engine of entropy maximization, and all will be fine.

    2. Sotorro

      Re: Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

      @ DougS

      Sadly we need to be even faster then that, as it's predicted that in 500,000,000 years the sun has heated up enough, to prevent life on Earth, and we all will be cooked.

      or according to wikipedia 600 million years, but who cares about a vew years ;)

      "The Sun's increasing luminosity begins to disrupt the carbonate–silicate cycle; higher luminosity increases weathering of surface rocks, which traps carbon dioxide in the ground as carbonate. As water evaporates from the Earth's surface, rocks harden, causing plate tectonics to slow and eventually stop. Without volcanoes to recycle carbon into the Earth's atmosphere, carbon dioxide levels begin to fall.[50] By this time, carbon dioxide levels will fall to the point at which C3 photosynthesis is no longer possible. All plants that utilize C3 photosynthesis (~99 percent of present-day species) will die.[51]"

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

        On the bright side all the Green Nuts could finally shut the Hell up, about our Carbon Footprints!

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        @Sotorro -- Re: Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

        So we should do our part to prevent this from happening by extracting as much carbon as possible from the ground and rock, convert it to CO2 and pump into the atmosphere to protect the planet?

        Cue long multipages of fighting betwixt the deniers and believers... in 3...2....1.....

        <runs><dives into bunker>

        1. Sotorro

          Re: @Sotorro -- Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

          If you think you can cool down the planet, by heating it up go ahead, and start pumping out more CO2.

          I would suggest to put solar panels in to orbit, blocking out the suns rays and collecting energy at the same time, maybe we then can make it till the Andromeda collision, I will go and grab some popcorn and fizz, so I can enjoy the collision spectacle from the front row.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Sotorro -- Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

            AFAIK there is an equal probability Andromeda passes through as as two flocks of birds can fly past.

            It could be as little as 100 star collisions. Though a lot of edge cases can get flung out into deep space, the cores are travelling too fast to orbit and then collide.

            A core may get "ejected" though should they get close together. Anyone fancy a long game of "musical chairs... um black holes".

    3. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

      Slightly more bleedin' obvious is that Quasar formation is the province of young galaxies.

      Once they get older, the central black hole has hoovered up the majority of the loose material in the middle and has ended the "feeding" stage of its lifecycle.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Intriguing potential explanation for what a quasar really is

        It probably doesn't take them all that long to "hoover up the loose material in the middle" in a newly formed galaxy, but a galactic collision gives them all sorts of fresh material to suck up. Especially as the two black holes merging will each drag a lot of their neighbor's stars onto the menu on their way towards each other. They would orbit each other at near relativistic velocities towards the end, which has to really do a number on the material they're bringing in.

  4. illiad

    Artist, please note recent article!! :)

    surely you can use that for a correct view??

  5. John Sager

    Gravitational Radiation

    Presumably the GR flux from this is below detection threshold, but the config should enable the boffins to calculate the expected flux?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish...

    ..I were clever enough to contribute to this thread, but sadly it not to be :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wish...

      Come on, now!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two holes are better than one

    Or so I'm told.

    1. Camilla Smythe

      Re: Two holes are better than one

      Bloody people with two holes. So Lah Di Dah Superior. So.. they can dry their clothes and still play golf. Big deal.

  8. boffin_the_bozo

    Boffins and Bozos

    There are boffins, and there are bozos. You can recognize bozos because they use the word "boffin".

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Boffins and Bozos

      The Grand Unification of Boffinry and Bozonosity is called Buffoonification, and it has has its own heavy gauge boson: The Commentardon, with spin "whatever". Rumors that Susie and Sheryl will cause the Commentardino to appear have so far not been met with experimental success, probably because his mass is a multiple of the Mall Scooter.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh FFS

    We cant accurately predict our own weather with ANY accuracy 24 hours in the future. Let alone an event a few hundred thousand years. Boffins do talk utter shite, sometimes.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Oh FFS

      That's because one system is chaotic and the other is pretty much not, it's a system in spindown mode dumping energy into its surroundings with rather simple statistics.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh FFS

        I see, so in the last 100 years, we have become sufficiently advanced to determine events farther into the future than we have been walking upon the planet. Which we have barely explored...

        Bollocks we have....... We are tiny insignificant specs with more pressing issues than plotting the course of things we really don't understand.

        Chaotic or not, it's all bollocks.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Oh FFS

          Sounds like you should be running for Congress here in the States. You'll fit right in.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh FFS

          I can tell you for absolute certainty that in seven bazillion years down will still be down.

          That's a good enough prediction for you, and proves you wrong on the impossibility of making distant predictions.

          However, please don't ask that question again on Friday night, as I might get it slightly wrong. (beer o'clock?)

  10. Simon Brady

    Type mismatch error

    Dear Reg,

    100,000 is read as "one hundred thousand". "Few one hundred thousand" != "Few hundred thousand". Please stop making my brain hurt this early in the morning.

    Thank you.

  11. Mephistro

    " – weighing in at 150 million times more massive than our Sun and four million times the mass of 'Ol Sol respectively – have thrilled boffins."

    No wonder!.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      but compared to Sag A?

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