Science Three supermassive black holes found lurking in one galaxy

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  1. tom_mai78101

    tom_mai78101 The Helper Connoisseur / Ex-MineCraft Host Staff Member

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    Catching two supermassive black holes sharing close quarters isn’t that unusual. But spotting three jockeying for position is quite bizarre. In fact, astronomers rarely witness such a triplet. But now, according to a new study accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics, astronomers have discovered a single galaxy that's home to three supermassive black holes: NGC 6240.

    In the study, an international team of astronomers identified three supermassive black holes lurking near the center of galaxy NGC 6240, which has been visibly disturbed by the gravitational effects of a triple merger. NGC 6240 is relatively close — only about 300 million light-years away — and astronomers previously assumed its odd shape was the result of a run-of-the-mill merger between two galaxies. These two galaxies, they thought, slammed together while moving at hundreds of miles per second, and they're still in the process of melding together. Therefore, the researchers expected to find two supermassive black holes hiding near the center of the cosmic collision.

    Instead, when they peered into NGC 6240's core using 3D-mapping techniques, the team unexpectedly found three supermassive black holes — each weighing more than 90 million Suns. (For comparison, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*, weighs about 4 million solar masses.) What’s more, NGC 6240's three behemoth black holes are all crammed into a region less than 3,000 light-years across, which is less than one percent the size of the galaxy in which they reside.

    Read more here. (Astronomy)

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