Scientists discovered a galaxy with three supermassive black holes

Each of the black holes is heavier than 90 million Suns. 

galaxy with three supermassive black holes
Galaxy with three supermassive black holes.

They are all located in a relatively small area 3,000 light-years wide — less than 1% of the entire galaxy.

The three black holes are amazingly close together.

The NGC 6240 galaxy has attracted the attention of scientists with its unusual shape. It was thought to have been formed by the merger of two smaller galaxies. NGC 6240 is located 300 million light-years away from the solar system - relatively close according to the standards of the Universe. This allowed astrophysicists to study the system over the entire spectrum of light waves.

Scientists discovered a galaxy with three supermassive black holes
Scientists discovered a galaxy with three supermassive black holes

Three supermassive black holes

Two supermassive black holes were found in the center of the galaxy (one of the "parent" galaxies), which met the standards of galactic interaction. But as a result of further studies, a third black hole was found and this phenomenon was detected for the first time in the history of research.

“Until now, such a concentration of supermassive black holes has not been discovered anywhere in the universe,” Peter Weilbacher, researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics named after Leibniz in Potsdam.

The discovery allowed scientists to assume that not two but three galaxies joined together to create NGC 6240, which explains its unusual properties.

According to researchers, over time (probably after several million years), three super massive black holes will merge into one. This will create incredibly strong gravitational waves or ripples of space-time.

This galaxy is the very first known to feature at least three supermassive black holes.

Super massive black holes are the driving forces behind the galaxy's centers, including our very own Milky Way galaxy. However, researchers first observed that there are three supermassive black holes in the same galaxy in the core of the galaxy, and they are surprisingly close to each other.

Observations carried out by scientists from the University of Göttingen (Germany) through the telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile have shown for the first time three supermassive black holes close together in the nucleus of the galaxy NGC 6240.

"Through our observations with an extremely high spatial resolution, we were able to demonstrate that the galaxy NGC 6240 houses not two, as previously assumed, but three supermassive black holes at its center," says Professor Wolfram Kollatschny of the University of Göttingen, in a study published in the scientific journal ' Astronomy & Astrophysics '.

The NGC 6240 galaxy is 300 million light years from Earth and is known as an irregular galaxy due to its particular shape and, to date, it was thought to have been formed by the collision of two smaller galaxies and therefore It contained two black holes in its core.

"Until now, such a concentration three supermassive black holes never had been discovered in the universe," adds Peter Weilbacher , of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (Germany). "The present case provides evidence of a process of simultaneous fusion of three galaxies along with their central black holes."