When black holes collide, the ensuing cosmic drama was assumed to play out under the cloak of darkness, given that both objects are invisible. But now astronomers believe they have made the first optical observations of such a merger, marked by a blaze of light a trillion times brighter than the sun.
The flare was linked to a known black hole merger detected last year by the gravitational wave observatory, Ligo, which picked up ripples sent out through the fabric of space. The latest observations suggest that when these cataclysmic events occur within the accretion disk of an even more gigantic black hole, they are brilliantly illuminated by the surrounding dust and gas, making them also visible to optical telescopes.
“This supermassive black hole was burbling along for years before this more abrupt flare,” said Matthew Graham, a research professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Technology and lead author of the work. “We conclude that the flare is likely the result of a black hole merger.”
Read more at The Guardian