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Picture of the Day

At the cusp of collision

A new simulation of supermassive black holes -- the behemoths at the centers of galaxies -- uses a realistic scenario to predict the light signals emitted in the surrounding gas before the masses collide. The study represents the first step toward predicting the approaching merger of supermassive black holes using the two channels of information now available to scientists -- the electromagnetic and the gravitational wave spectra -- known as multimessenger astrophysics. Unlike their less massive cousins, first detected in 2016, supermassive black holes are fed by gas disks that surround them like doughnuts. The strong gravitational pull of the black holes that inspiral toward one another heats and disrupts the flow of gas from disk to black hole and emits periodic signals in the visible to X-ray portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Visit Website | Image credit: Manuela Campanelli/Vassilios Mewes/Dennis Bowen/Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, Rochester Institute of Technology