A new release from the European Space Agency (ESA) has detailed the discovery of the closest pair of merging supermassive black holes to Earth.
The team of researchers behind the study that's been published in Astronomy & Astrophysics state that they have never found a pair of merging supermassive black holes as close as the pair that reside in the center of the galaxy NGC 7727. The galaxy resides in the constellation Aquarius and is around 89 million light-years away from Earth. Research indicates that the two supermassive black holes will become one in around 250 million years.
The lead author on the new study, Karina Voggel, an astronomer at the Strasbourg Observatory in France, says that merging black holes within NGC 7727 has broken the record for the closest pair of merging black holes to Earth by more than half the previous record holder. The record that was just broken was held by a pair of merging black holes 470 million light-years away from Earth, which is more than five times the distance than the two that were recently discovered.
"It is the first time we find two supermassive black holes that are this close to each other, less than half the separation of the previous record holder," said Karina Voggel, an astronomer at the Strasbourg Observatory in France and lead author of the new study.
"Our finding implies that there might be many more of these relics of galaxy mergers out there, and they may contain many hidden massive black holes that still wait to be found," said Voggel. "It could increase the total number of supermassive black holes known in the local universe by 30%."
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