Detail View: NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day Collection: The Supermassive Black Holes of NGC 6240

Title: 
The Supermassive Black Holes of NGC 6240
Explanation: 
The Hubble [ http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~barnes/hon6240.html ] optical image on the left shows NGC 6240 [ http://crux.astr.ua.edu/gifimages/ngc6240.html ] in the throes [ http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap020411.html ] of a titanic galaxy - galaxy collision 400 million light-years away. As the cosmic catastrophe plays out, the merging galaxies spew forth distorted tidal tails [ http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap020502.html ] of stars, gas, and dust and undergo frantic bursts [ http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap020711.html ] of star formation. Using the orbiting Chandra [ http://chandra.harvard.edu/chronicle/ ] Observatory's x-ray vision to peer within the bright central regions of NGC 6240 astronomers believe they have uncovered, for the first time [ http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2002/0192/index.html ], not one but two enormous orbiting black holes [ http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap000914.html ], by detecting the characteristic x-ray radiation from the interstellar debris swirling [ http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap020927.html ] toward them. In the false-color close-up view at right, the x-ray data clearly show the black hole sources (shaded blue) separated by about 3,000 light-years. Einstein's theory of gravity predicts that such a pair of black holes must spiral closer together, and ultimately coalesce [ http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2002/0192/ animations.html ] into a single, even more massive black hole after [ http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/cosmic_lookback.html ] several hundred million years [ http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/cosmic_lookback.html ]. In the final moments the merging supermassive black holes will produce an extremely powerful burst of gravitational radiation [ http://archive.ncsa.uiuc.edu/Cyberia/NumRel/ GravWaves.html ].
Credit and Copyright: 
Optical: R.P.van der Marel & J.Gerssen (STScI [ http://www.stsci.edu/ ]), NASA [ http://www.nasa.gov/ ]; X-ray: S.Komossa & G.Hasinger (MPE [ http://www.mpe.mpg.de/ ]) et al., CXC [ http://chandra.harvard.edu/ ], NASA
keyword: 
black hole
facet_where: 
Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)
facet_what: 
Crux
original url: 
http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap021128.html
UID: 
SPD-APOD-ap021128