June 30, 2022


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Astronomers have discovered the closest pair of supermassive black holes |  urania

Astronomers have discovered the closest pair of supermassive black holes | urania

Astronomers have discovered a pair of supermassive black holes that are several times closer to Earth than previous record holders. This discovery was reported by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), whose telescope was used for observation.

The galaxy NGC 7727 has been observed in the constellation Aquarius, which is 89 million light-years away. A pair of supermassive black holes has been discovered in its center, which is therefore five times closer to us than the previous record of 470 million light-years away.

They are known to contain supermassive black holes at the centers of many galaxies. We are talking about objects that have millions, sometimes hundreds of millions, or more the mass of the Sun. When two galaxies collide in a cosmic catastrophe, their supermassive black holes can collide with each other and form a pair like the one seen with NGC 7727.

Moreover, the black holes from the aforementioned galaxy broke another record regarding the minimum distance between the components of such a binary. In this case, they are only 1,600 light-years apart, or less than half the previous record. According to the researchers, it is very likely that these black holes will merge into one within 250 million years.

Karina Vogel of the Strasbourg Observatory in France, with her team, identified the masses of black holes. One has a mass of 6.4 million solar masses, which is quite similar to the mass of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way (4.3 million solar masses). The second, on the other hand, is certainly more massive – 154 million solar masses. These physical quantities were determined by analyzing the gravitational effect of black holes on neighboring objects.

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Observations were made using the Multi-Unit Spectrograph Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the Paranal Observatory’s VLT telescope, of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Karina Vogel knows this machine well, because she learned to work with it when she was an ESO student.

The relative proximity of NGC 7727 was also useful in this case, at greater distances.

As Voggel points out, the discovery suggests there may be more yet hidden remnants of galactic mergers, which could increase the total number of known supermassive black holes in the local universe by up to 30%.

The results of scientific research are presented in the journal “Astronomy and Astrophysics”.

more information:

Prepared by: Krzysztof Kzart

Source: ESO

in the picture:
On the right is an image of the galaxy NGC 7727. In the zoom in on the left is the central region of the galaxy with two bright spots, dense clusters of stars with supermassive black holes in the center. The image on the right was taken with the VST telescope and the image on the left was taken with the VLT telescope. Source: ESO / Voggel et al. ; ESO/VST ATLAS Team. Acknowledgments: Durham University / CASU / WFAU.