September 29, 2022

ESO telescope images a spectacular cosmic dance

While the galaxy was previously taken by another ESO telescope, this new image displays more intricate details each within the main body from the galaxy and in the faint tails around it

ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has imaged the result of a spectacular cosmic collision— the galaxy NGC 7727.

This giant was born from your merger of two galaxies, an event that started in regards to billion years ago. At the center lies the closest pair of supermassive black openings ever found, two objects that are destined to coalesce into an even more massive black hole.

Just as you may bump into someone on a busy street, galaxies too can bump into one another. But while galactic relationships are much more violent than a bump on a busy street, individual stars don’t generally collide since, compared to their sizes, the distances together are very large. Rather, the particular galaxies dance around each other, with gravity creating tidal forces that dramatically replace the look of the two dancing partners. “ Tails” of stars, gas and dust are spun around the galaxies as they eventually form a brand new, merged galaxy, resulting in the particular disordered and beautifully asymmetrical shape that we see in NGC 7727.

The consequences of this cosmic bundle are spectacularly evident in this particular image of the galaxy, taken with the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph two (FORS2) instrument at ESO’s VLT. While the galaxy was previously captured by another ASI telescope, this new picture shows more intricate information both within the main body of the galaxy and in the particular faint tails around this.

In this ASI VLT image we see the tangled trails created because the two galaxies merged, burning stars and dust from each other to create the spectacular long arms embracing NGC 7727. Parts of these arms are dotted with stars, which appear as shiny blue-purplish spots in this image.

Also noticeable in this image are two bright points at the center of the galaxy, another telltale sign of its dramatic previous. The core of NGC 7727 still consists of the original two galactic cores, each hosting a  supermassive black hole . Situated about 89 million light-years away from Earth, in the constellation of Aquarius, this is the nearest pair of supermassive black holes to us.

The black holes within NGC 7727 are noticed to be just 1600 light-years apart in the sky and are likely to merge within 250 mil years, the blink of an eye in astronomical period. When the black holes merge they will create an even more  massive black opening .

The particular search for similarly hidden supermassive black hole pairs is definitely expected to make a great step forward with ESO’s upcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), started start operating later this decade in Chile’s Atacama Desert. With the ELT, we can expect many more of these breakthroughs at the centers of  galaxies .

Our home galaxy, which usually also sports a supermassive dark hole at its middle, is on a path to merge with our closest large neighbors, the Andromeda Galaxy, vast amounts of years from now. Probably the resulting galaxy will look something such as the cosmic dance we see in NGC 7727, so this image could be offering us a glimpse into the future.

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