Supermassive black holes have been studied along time, and they appear as the engines fueling the cores of galaxies, even our Milky Way galaxy. The number of supermassive black holes a galaxy can posses is still uncertain, especially when a recent discovery changed scientists’ beliefs.
It appears that galaxy NGC 6240 has an odd shape, which made scientists think that it was developed at the moment of a collision of two smaller galaxies. The galaxy is approximately close to us, but by some universal rules at 300 million light-years away. Scientists began to analyze NGC 6240 in all wavelengths of light.
Wolfram Kollatschny, the lead study author of the recent research and professor at the University of Gottingen, detailed what the team observed and which are the results.
He stated: “Through our observations with an 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 center.”
The three supermassive black holes will eventually merge
The three supermassive black holes are situated in the same place that’s less than 3,000 light-years across, and according to scientists, this space is less than one hundredth the dimension of the whole galaxy.
Galaxy NGC 6240 represents, more significantly, the first case of such a discovery. It also provides proof of a simultaneous merging process of three galaxies along with their central black holes. Moreover, this study will let astronomers understand better how galaxies develop over time, especially the biggest galaxies in the universe.
Weilbacher added: “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.”
In time, the three supermassive black holes are expected to merge. Their final action is also likely to create significantly powerful gravitational waves in space.