Thanks to the MUSE instrument installed on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, a group of astronomers confirmed The existence of the closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth has ever been observed: 89 million light-years away, 470 million light-years closer than the previous record. The two black holes are located in the center of the galaxy NGC 7727, in the constellation Aquarius, and are believed to belong to the remnants of the galactic nuclei from the collision of two galaxies. The mutual distance between them is also the shortest distance ever observed, Only 1600 light years away, less than half of the previous record.
Astronomers have long suspected that the cores of both galaxies contain supermassive black holes, but until now it has not been possible to directly confirm this due to the lack of high-energy electromagnetic emissions usually associated with this type of celestial body. Using MUSE (Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) and ancillary data provided by Hubble, the team of astronomers led by astronomer Karina Vogel detected with great accuracy the motions of nearby stars, the analysis of which allowed to determine the mass of the two giant stars. Black Holes: The largest black hole, located at the center of NGC 7727, has a mass of about 154 million solar masses, while its companion has a mass of about 6.3 million solar masses. The two black holes are set to collide and merge, resulting in a single supermassive black hole within the next 250 million years.
The study is titled First direct dynamic discovery of a supermassive black hole system at sub-kpc e . separation The publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics is of particular interest, not only because of its proximity to Earth and thus its relative “ease” of observation, but because it indicates that pairs of black holes in the universe could be more widespread than assumed, which could help understand the mechanism Which led to the birth of such huge bodies. “Our discovery indicates that there may be a much larger number of remnants of galactic mergers and they could contain many hidden massive black holes still waiting to be found.Karina Vogel explains. This pageThe total number of known supermassive black holes in the local universe could increase by 30%“.
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