Three Black Holes are Heading for a Galactic Smackdown

By Sarah Basford on at

In a galaxy far, far away, three black holes are racing towards each other.

The galaxy is called NGC 6240 and it's around 300 million light-years away but is still considered a neighbour more or less. While it had been thought only two supermassive black holes existed within it for decades, a third one has been found, according to researchers from the University of Göttingen.

The findings were made with a powerful telescope, the MUSE 3D spectrograph, located in Chile's European Southern Observatory. They observed the three black hole big bois had a mass of more than 90 million Suns.

"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," the lead author, Professor Wolfram Kollatschny from the University of Göttingen, said in the report.

"The present case provides evidence of a simultaneous merging process of three galaxies along with their central black holes."

The study has helped the researchers better understand how galaxies have evolved over the course of 14 billion years ⁠— the approximate age of our universe.

"If, however, simultaneous merging processes of several galaxies took place, then the largest galaxies with their central supermassive black holes were able to evolve much faster," Professor Kollatschny said.

"Our observations provide the first indication of this scenario."

But the eventual smackdown is still a few million years away from happening so, even though it's likely to be a colossal event, we'll never know how big it will truly be. [Via University of Göttingen]

Featured image: Getty


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