Mergers and Acquisitions

This simulation of a pair of black holes merging plays in slow motion, but the real merger would take about one third of a second in real time. The black holes extreme gravity lenses the light from the stars, galaxies, gas, and dust behind them into Einstein rings as they spiral closer and finally merge into one. The otherwise invisible gravitational waves generated as the massive objects rapidly coalesce cause the visible image to ripple and slosh both inside and outside the Einstein rings even after the black holes have merged.

The gravitational waves recently detected by LIGO are consistent with the merger of 36 and 29 solar mass black holes at a distance of 1.3 billion light-years. The final, single black hole has 62 times the mass of the Sun—the remaining 3 solar masses were converted into energy as gravitational waves.

Video Credit: SXS