The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently shared images of two supermassive black holes in Galaxy NGC 6240 which are in the process of merging. These merging black holes are approximately 3,000 light-years apart and are seen as the bright point-like sources in the middle of the image.
The supermassive black holes are in such proximity as they are spiraling toward each other — a process that began about 30 million years ago.
"Seen as the bright dots near the center of this image, the black holes are just 3,000 light years apart," NASA said.
"Eventually they will drift together, forming a larger black hole millions of years from now," it added.
There has been an intense interest in follow-up observations of NGC 6240 by Chandra and other telescopes, since the year 2002.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emissions from very hot regions of the universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.
In 2020, based on the data provide by Chandra, the discovery of two merging black holes was announced.
NGC 6240 is a nearby ultraluminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG) in the constellation Ophiuchus. The galaxy is the remnant of a merger between three smaller galaxies.
According to the scientists, the merging process might have begun about 30 million years ago. It is estimated that the two black holes will eventually drift together and merge into a larger black hole some tens or hundreds of millions of years from now.