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Section 5

What happens when two supermassive black holes collide?

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Until last year, we weren’t quite sure. Gravitational waves! Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time originally predicted by Albert Einstein more than 100 years ago, but confirmed for the first time in 2016 by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). To date, LIGO has made four detections of gravitational waves emanating from the mergers of black holes. Einstein pictured these waves as ripples in the fabric of space-time produced by massive, accelerating bodies, such as black holes orbiting each other. Credit: SXS
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