Pair of black holes locked in death dance

(SPACE.com) — Two supermassive black holes have been found to be spiraling toward a merger, astronomers said today.

The collision will create a single super-supermassive black hole capable of swallowing material equal to billions of stars, the researchers said.

Mergers between black holes are thought to be one way they grow. A handful of similar setups have been observed in which black holes appear inevitably on a merger course. This pair, at the center of a galaxy cluster called Abell 400, was known to be close but their fate hadn’t been determined.

“The question was: Is this pair of supermassive black holes an old married couple, or just strangers passing in the night?” said Craig Sarazin of the University of Virginia.

“We now know that they are coupled, but more like the mating of black widow spiders. One of the black holes invariably will eat the other.”

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