Nearby quasar may be home to dynamic duo | Science News

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Nearby quasar may be home to dynamic duo

Twin black holes could provide insight into galaxy formation

5:45pm, August 31, 2015
pair of supermassive black holes

BOSOM BUDDIES  A pair of supermassive black holes might live in the heart of the galaxy Markarian 231, shown in this Hubble Space Telescope image. 

The closest quasar to Earth might harbor a rare pair of supermassive black holes. The dark duo is probably left over from a galaxy collision, researchers report, and offers a way to test theories about gravity and the growth of galaxies.

Black hole couples should pop up in the center of pretty much every galaxy at some point, as galaxies grow by colliding with one another. This galactic cannibalism eventually brings together the black holes that reside in their centers. “If we cannot find any binary black holes in the centers of big galaxies, that means our understanding of galaxy formation may be wrong,” says Youjun Lu, an astrophysicist at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Such a pair might be snuggled up in the heart of Markarian 231, a galaxy roughly 590 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, Lu and colleagues report in the

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