A number of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) exist in the universe. For long, scientists have held that these exceptionally large SMBHs are the result of the merger of more than one smaller black holes. But new findings about gravitational waves contest that conclusion.
When two black holes merge, they give off gravity waves before and during the collision. Scientists are able to calculate the intensity of these gravity waves through pulsar timing. Typically, a huge collision must result in significant fluctuations in the pulsar timing.
However, recent data about gravitational waves is not consistent with the popular collision models that have been developed over the years. This has immediately put into question our understanding of SMBHs. In fact, it also hints at the possibility that SMBHs are either not a combination of multiple black holes or that two black holes collide to form such SMBHs in a different manner than we expected.
Scientists are now considering one of these possibilities: namely that these SMBHs were born the way they are through the collapse of matter back in the days of galaxy formation. When an immensely huge mass of matter collapses, it results in the creation of a black hole.
Yet another explanation could be that many black holes are present in such distance to each other that they tamper with each other’s gravitational radiation. If this were the case, this would essentially render our calculations of the gravitational waves inaccurate and thus, useless. However, right now, scientists need more data to confirm either of these possibilities and so, those massive matter-consuming, time-bending black holes continue to be a mystery.