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NGC 6240 (An extremely luminous galaxy about 400 million light years from Earth.) | by Smithsonian Institution
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NGC 6240 (An extremely luminous galaxy about 400 million light years from Earth.)

Description: The peculiar butterfly shape of NGC 6240 was caused by the collision of two smaller galaxies. Chandra's high-resolution image of the galaxy's central region revealed not one, but two active giant black holes. Over the course of the next few hundred million years, the two supermassive black holes, which are about 3000 light years apart, will drift toward one another and merge to form one larger supermassive black hole. The relatively recent merger (30 million years) that formed this galaxy triggered a dramatic increase in the rate of star formation and supernova explosions. Heat generated by this activity created the extensive multimillion degree Celsius gas seen in this image. The red, green, and blue colors represent low, medium and high X-ray energies, respectively.


Creator/Photographer: Chandra X-ray Observatory


NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched and deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, is the most sophisticated X-ray observatory built to date. The mirrors on Chandra are the largest, most precisely shaped and aligned, and smoothest mirrors ever constructed. Chandra is helping scientists better understand the hot, turbulent regions of space and answer fundamental questions about origin, evolution, and destiny of the Universe. The images Chandra makes are twenty-five times sharper than the best previous X-ray telescope. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Medium: Chandra telescope x-ray


Date: 2002


Repository: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory


Gift line: NASA/CXC/MPE/S.Komossa et al.


Accession number: ngc6420

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Taken on October 8, 2008