ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The University of New Mexico has made a first of its kind discovery more than 700 million light years from earth.
It’s a discovery 12 years in the making for UNM Professor Greg Taylor.
“I was worried I might have to wait until I was 100 or so,” Professor Taylor said.
His hard work and patience paid off when UNM graduate student Karishma Bansal noticed some unique activity going on while studying a galaxy with a pair of supermassive black holes.
“I was like, great, something is happening here. I don’t know what’s happening, but eventually, we established there’s significant motion here so we said great! Let’s write it,” Bansal said.
Now for the first time ever, astronomers at UNM have observed and measured two supermassive black holes moving in tandem, one orbiting the other.
“It’s very exciting. It was a great feeling when Karishma told me that she could see some motion,” Professor Taylor said.
After the discovery first made its rounds in the science community, UNM has enjoyed some mainstream popularity.
“Usually we publish our papers and we’re luck if we can get a few people to cite them, so it’s very unusual for your colleagues to walk up to you and say, ‘Hey, that’s a very great result,'” Professor Taylor said.
While Bansal is the first author on the research paper, she says the breakthrough was a group effort.
“It was everybody who made that discovery because it was a very difficult project, because the motion is very small. And there’s not just motion — we see one more effect,” Bansal said.
Professor Taylor believes this is great news not only for UNM but also the entire astronomy community.
“I think it’s going to get more people working in this area more. They’re going to see this system, they’re going to get excited about it, and they’re going to want to find more systems like it,” Professor Taylor said.
Stanford collaborated on the project, along with the U.S. Naval Observatory and the Gemini Observatory.
The hope is that the study will provide insight on how galaxies evolve.