I've read a lot of conflicting answers in these forums. However, today saw the awesome announcement of gravitational waves. Two black holes merged: http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2016/02/11/gravitational_waves_finally_detected_at_ligo.html
Not only that, they merged FAST. In 1/5th of a second revolving around each other 250 times a second. The entire event was quicker than a heartbeat. Moreover, we observed this happening as distant outsiders. So now we can say for sure:
- Objects approaching the event horizon DO NOT appear to slow down
- Black holes CAN merge in a finite (and quick) amount of time
- And all this is wrt a frame of reference far, far away
To quote the NYTimes article:
One of them was 36 times as massive as the sun, the other 29. As they approached the end, at half the speed of light, they were circling each other 250 times a second.
And then the ringing stopped as the two holes coalesced into a single black hole, a trapdoor in space with the equivalent mass of 62 suns. All in a fifth of a second, Earth time.
However, everything I've read so far has let me to believe that an outside observer should never be able to measure the collision happening in a finite time. So what exactly is happening here? I must have read at lest 5 different versions of this so far everywhere in these forums over the past several years.