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Pair of Merging Black Holes Closest to Earth Ever Found

Black Hole

European Southern Observatory two black holes merging

A pair of black holes out there in space are merging together to form one massive black hole. What is more, this is the closest to Earth that such a phenomenon has been observed, albeit in another galaxy.

The European Southern Observatory discovered the phenomenon. There is no need for panic because the new massive black hole will be trillions and trillions of miles away from Earth.


Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), astronomers there revealed the closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth ever observed. The scientists explained that the two objects also have a much smaller separation than any other previously spotted pair of supermassive black holes and will eventually merge into one giant black hole.

Located in the galaxy NGC 7727 in the constellation Aquarius, the supermassive black hole pair is about 89 million light-years away from Earth. Although this may seem distant, ESO says that this beats the previous record of 470 million light-years by quite some margin, making the newfound supermassive black hole pair the closest to us yet.

Supermassive black holes lurk at the center of massive galaxies and when two such galaxies merge, the black holes end up on a collision course. The pair in NGC 7727 beat the record for the smallest separation between two supermassive black holes, as they are observed to be just 1600 light-years apart in the sky. “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,” says Karina Voggel, an astronomer at the Strasbourg Observatory in France and lead author of the study published online today in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“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,” adds co-author Holger Baumgardt, a professor at the University of Queensland, Australia. The merging of black holes like these could explain how the most massive black holes in the Universe come to be.

So, what does this mean for all of us here on Earth? Well, nothing really. By the time the merger of the two black holes is completed everyone alive today will have been long gone. And there is little, if any, chance that a human being will actually be able to travel to anywhere near there in the next few thousand years or so.

But what is important here is how we are learning so much more about the nature of the universe on a daily basis.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) enables scientists worldwide to discover the secrets of the Universe for the benefit of all. We design, build and operate world-class observatories on the ground — which astronomers use to tackle exciting questions and spread the fascination of astronomy — and promote international collaboration in astronomy. Established as an intergovernmental organization in 1962, today ESO is supported by 16 Member States (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom), along with the host state of Chile and with Australia as a Strategic Partner.

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