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

The Supermassive Black Holes of NGC 6240
The Hubble [ ] optical image on the left shows NGC 6240 [ ] in the throes [ ] 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 [ ] of stars, gas, and dust and undergo frantic bursts [ ] of star formation. Using the orbiting Chandra [ ] Observatory's x-ray vision to peer within the bright central regions of NGC 6240 astronomers believe they have uncovered, for the first time [ ], not one but two enormous orbiting black holes [ ], by detecting the characteristic x-ray radiation from the interstellar debris swirling [ ] 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 [ animations.html ] into a single, even more massive black hole after [ ] several hundred million years [ ]. In the final moments the merging supermassive black holes will produce an extremely powerful burst of gravitational radiation [ GravWaves.html ].
Credit and Copyright: 
Optical: R.P.van der Marel & J.Gerssen (STScI [ ]), NASA [ ]; X-ray: S.Komossa & G.Hasinger (MPE [ ]) et al., CXC [ ], NASA
black hole
Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)
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