In a record-breaking discovery, astronomers have discovered the closest pair of supermassive black holes from the Earth. The black holes were spotted using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope and have broken a couple of records. Located in the galaxy NGC 7727, the pair is about 89 million light-years from our planet and has surpassed the previous record of 470 million light-years held by another black hole couple. In addition to this, the two black holes also have just 1600 light-years of separation between them, which is the shortest distance between any known pair of supermassive black holes.
1/ Using our VLT, astronomers have uncovered the closest pair of supermassive black holes yet, in a galaxy about 89 million light-years away— ESO (@ESO) November 30, 2021
Credit: @ESO/Voggel et al.; ESO/Shanks et al
Acknowledgement: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit pic.twitter.com/pTL4Kl7REE
Both the entities are on a collision course and will merge into one nearly 250 million light-years from now, according to the astronomers. Astronomer Karina Voggel from the Strasbourg Observatory in France in Australia said that is the first instance of the discovery of two black holes that are this close to each other, less than half of the distance of previous record holders. Talking about the collision of the two colossal, Professor Holger Baumgardt from the University of Queensland said as per ESO's report-
The small separation and velocity of the two black holes indicate that they will merge into one monster black hole, probably within the next 250 million years.
Interestingly, both the black holes are unfathomably huge as the bigger one, which is at the core of its galaxy, is almost 154 million times massive than the Sun, whereas the mass of the smaller one is equivalent to 6.3 million suns. The astronomers have been suspicious about the existence of this pair however they were unable to trace it earlier owing to the difficulty in detecting high-energy radiation originating from this black hole system. Adding to his statement, Voggel said, "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. It could increase the total number of supermassive black holes known in the local Universe by 30 percent.”