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Q&A: Black Holes

Q:
Will the collision of the two supermassive black holes REALLY damage the entire universe? Will it affect Earth? If it does damage the universe, how long will it last?

A:
Don't worry. Although the collision of two supermassive black holes in a distant galaxy could do serious damage to the inner parts of galaxy in which they reside, they would do no harm to Earth, let alone the entire universe. We can be reasonably sure of this because the observations of the galaxy NGC 6240 indicate that two supermassive black holes are orbiting each other and will eventually collide. This suggests that it is very likely that black holes in other galaxies have collided before, some in the distant past. The effects of these collisions should have reached us by now, and the Earth, the Sun, and the universe still exist.

Chandra will be searching for more examples of X-rays from matter around pairs of supermassive black holes. The expected intensity of gravitational waves from colliding black holes is so small that it will take an extremely sensitive gravitational wave detector to detect it. Astronomers are hoping that the new detectors planned for the near future will be able to do this.

bulletFor more about supermassive black holes, see:
http://chandra.harvard.edu/press/02_releases/press_111902.html.

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