Two enormous black holes may exist at the heart of a nearby galaxy, according to a new study set to be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
While many large systems contain supermassive black holes at their centers, it's apparently considered rare that two could exist so close to each other. Even the Milky Way has a supermassive black hole at its center, according to NASA.
A study using NASA's Swift satellite and the Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a second supersized black hole at the heart of an unusual nearby galaxy already known to be sporting one.
The galaxy, which is known as Markarian 739 or NGC 3758, lies 425 million light-years away toward the constellation Leo. Only about 11,000 light-years separate the two cores, each of which contains a black hole gorging on infalling gas.
As rare as these two black holes being in such close proximity is, it's even rarer that they're both so intensely active. Only about one percent of supermassive black holes are considered to have active galactic nuclei (AGN), and both of these are at that level.
According to the study, the anomaly could be the result of a galaxy collision. "If two galaxies collide and each possesses a supermassive black hole, there should be times when both black holes switch on as AGN," said coauthor Richard Mushotzky, professor of astronomy at UMCP.
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