Last updated September 26, 2017 at 3:16 pm
A pair of massive black holes spiral together and merge.
This artist’s impression includes gravitational lensing (magnifying and distorting) of the background light by the black hole’s strong gravitational field, the creation and gravitational slingshot ejection of hypervelocity stars, and the capture of stars by the black holes with occasional tidal disruption events (TDEs) in which some of these stars are torn apart and a flare of emission from their hot interiors is seen before they cross the black hole’s event horizon.
The collective removal of stars, predominantly by the binary black holes ejecting them from the centre of the galaxy where they themselves reside, can result in large partially depleted galaxy cores that astronomers have observed with the Hubble Space Telescope.
Black hole merging events are a known source of gravitational waves, ripples in the gravitational force field that permeates the universe. The first such radiation was detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) on the 14th of September 2015.
Animation credit James Josephides for Swinburne University of Technology