Black Holes Go 'Mano a Mano' (NASA, Chandra, 10/06/09)

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This image of NGC 6240 contains new X-ray data from Chandra (shown in red, orange, and yellow) that has been combined with an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope originally released in 2008. In 2002, the discovery of two merging black holes was announced based on Chandra data in this galaxy. The two black holes are a mere 3,000 light years apart and are seen as the bright point-like sources in the middle of the image.

Scientists think these black holes are in such close proximity because they are in the midst of spiraling toward each other -- a process that began about 30 million years ago. It is estimated that the two black holes will eventually drift together and merge into a larger black hole some tens or hundreds of millions of years from now.

Finding and studying merging black holes has become a very active field of research in astrophysics. Since 2002, there has been intense interest in follow-up observations of NGC 6240 by Chandra and other telescopes, as well as a search for similar systems. Understanding what happens when these exotic objects interact with one another remains an intriguing question for scientists.

The formation of multiple systems of supermassive black holes should be common in the Universe, since many galaxies undergo collisions and mergers with other galaxies, most of which contain supermassive black holes. It is thought that pairs of massive black holes can explain some of the unusual behavior seen by rapidly growing supermassive black holes, such as the distortion and bending seen in the powerful jets they produce. Also, pairs of massive black holes in the process of merging are expected to be the most powerful sources of gravitational waves in the Universe.

Read entire caption/view more images: chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2009/ngc6240/

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/ C.Canizares, M.Nowak; Optical: NASA/STScI

Caption credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Read more about Chandra:
www.nasa.gov/chandra

p.s. You can see all of our Chandra photos in the Chandra Group in Flickr at: www.flickr.com/groups/chandranasa/ We'd love to have you as a member!

You can also get Twitter updates whenever there's a new image:
www.twitter.com/nasa1fan

v.marshall45-TrueNaturesChild, and 59 other people added this photo to their favorites.

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  2. FLPhotonut 67 months ago | reply

    Wow - just Wow! Love these shots of the great unknown!!

  3. _Maji_ 67 months ago | reply

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  4. Sam Antonio Photography 67 months ago | reply

    Thanks! I learned something new!

  5. Douglas Brown 67 months ago | reply

    Striking photograph!

  6. fyngyrz 67 months ago | reply

    mmmm. Tasty!

  7. Nebojsa Mladjenovic 67 months ago | reply

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  8. leograttoni 67 months ago | reply

    Amazin image, congratulations.

  9. horsetrainer~Mary~ 67 months ago | reply

    GREAT photo, always love your 'sky shots'!

  10. dulcinea526 67 months ago | reply

    Wonderful!!! And the Information so interesting! Thank you for sharing
    =)

  11. P.i.n.o. 67 months ago | reply

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  12. cazadordesueños 67 months ago | reply

    beautiful shot,congrats.;)

  13. Nestor M 66 months ago | reply

    deep space great I love to feel how small we are :)

    thank you

  14. vue3d 66 months ago | reply

    Good photo work on the computer.

    good

  15. ArrynBlue 66 months ago | reply

    Very interesting image and info.

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    and we'd love to have this added to the group!



    The "Earth - Through Your Eyes" group thanks you!

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