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Telescope makes crazy discovery of merger of two massive black holes from early universe

Telescope makes crazy discovery of merger of two massive black holes from early universe

It's a big step in understanding how black holes can get so ginormous.

Ever wondered how black holes in space get so big? New research could have the answer.

Scientists have discovered the earliest known merger of two black holes - some of the most mysterious cosmic objects out there.

They found the two black holes came together 740 million years after the Big Bang, and are the most distant example of merging black holes we have ever found.

One of the black holes is 50 million times larger than the Sun. The other is smaller in size, but as it’s buried in dense gas it’s harder to measure.

ESA/Webb, NASA via AP
ESA/Webb, NASA via AP

The findings, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, are a big deal for scientists, for whom the early universe is still filled with mysteries.

Up until now, astronomers didn't know how supermassive black holes got so big - and this could be their answer.

“Our findings suggest that merging is an important route through which black holes can rapidly grow, even at cosmic dawn," said lead author Hannah Ubler of the University of Cambridge.

“Together with other Webb findings of active, massive black holes in the distant universe, our results also show that massive black holes have been shaping the evolution of galaxies from the very beginning.”

The discovery was made using the Webb Space Telescope - the biggest and most powerful observatory ever sent into space.

It was the eventual successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990.


Black holes are regions in space so massive, and with such strong gravity, that nothing - including light - can escape from them. They tend to form when a big star collapses on its own weight, before growing by swallowing up everything around them, or merging with other black holes.

Next, the team will have a look at the rate at which black hole merging happens. When two do come together, scientists say they generate gravitational waves, which will apparently be detectable with the next generation of gravitational wave observatories, like the recently-approved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) - set to be the first space-based observatory dedicated to studying gravitational waves.

Unfortunately we have a bit of time to wait before LISA heads to space, as the European Space agency says it has a planned launch of mid-2030.

Featured Image Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA via AP / Universal History Archive / Contributor / Getty