GradImpact: Discovering Two Supermassive, Colliding Black Holes 750 Million Light-Years Away

    Karishma Bansal, a doctoral student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of New Mexico, and her colleagues made international news in June 2017 for their groundbreaking discovery: two supermassive black holes orbiting each other. Scientists have theorized this phenomenon was possible, but Bansal is the first to prove it. Over a 10-year period, UNM’s Dr. Gregory Taylor (Bansal’s mentor) and scientists from other universities took very fine measurements with a series of 10 radio telescopes located across North America. Bansal analyzed some of the data collected and demonstrated the orbital movement.


    To give you some perspective, each supermassive black hole is the size of our entire solar system; they exist 750 million light-years from earth; and they move at about 4 million miles per hour. Supermassive black holes exist in the center of most large galaxies. As two galaxies began to collide, the two black holes began to orbit each other. Eventually (as in millions of years from now), the two black holes will probably merge.


    Someday, billions of years from now, our galaxy will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. Bansal’s research will help scientists better understand this process. To learn more about Karishma’s work, visit the University of New Mexico website.


    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.



    **Photo Credit: C. Shell




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