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A galactic train wreck with three supermassive black holes

23 Nov 2019, 14:23 UTC
A galactic train wreck with three supermassive black holes
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NGC 6240 is an ongoing collision between three galaxies. Hard X-rays from two sources near the center of the merging galaxies indicated the presence of two supermassive black holes. Astronomers have now found a third. Image: P Weilbacher (AIP), NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University) Image: P Weilbacher (AIP), NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)
NGC 6240 is an irregular, chaotic-looking triple galaxy system 300 million light years from Earth where three galaxies are in the process of merging. Extensive observations indicated the presence of two supermassive black holes and now, researchers have found a third.
“Through our observations with extremely high spatial resolution we were able to show that the interacting galaxy system NGC 6240 hosts not two, as previously assumed, but three supermassive black holes in its centre,” said Wolfram Kollatschny of the University of Göttingen.
Each of the black holes has a mass of more than 90 million times that of the Sun, and all three are located within a region spanning just 3,000 light years.
“Up until now, such a concentration of three supermassive black holes ...

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