Closest pair of supermassive black holes through the eyes of VLT

The presented image shows two views of the galaxy UGC 4211. It is home to the closest pair of supermassive black holes.

The galaxy UGC 4211 has two supermassive black holes in its nuclei. Source: ESO/Koss et al.

The galaxy UGC 4211 is located at a distance of 480 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Cancer. It was formed as a result of a relatively recent merger. At its center we found two supermassive black holes, which were once part of the nuclei of the original pair of galaxies. They are separated by a distance of 750 light years. To date, this is the closest pair of supermassive black holes known to us.

Both images of the galaxy were taken using the MUSE receiver mounted on the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The photo on the left shows a “classic” view of the galaxy. You can pay attention to the powerful dust bands blocking the light of its stars. The photo on the right shows the emission of oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen atoms. They correspond to blue, green and red. The red color also indicates regions of active star formation.

In addition, you can pay attention to the bright white region in the center of UGC 4211. It is inside it that two black holes are hiding, which at the moment are very actively absorbing the surrounding matter. 

You can also read about how a black hole turns a star into a bagel.

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