This extraordinary phenomenon was discovered thanks to several observatories and space telescopes, including NASA‘s Chandra.
In an article recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, the finding that took place in the triple galaxy s system called SDSS J0849 + 1114, which is one billion light years from Earth, was made known.
“We were only looking for pairs of black holes at that time; however, we come across this incredible system,” said lead author Ryan Pfeife of Georfe Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
“This is the strongest evidence that has been found so far of such a triple active system of supermassive black holes,” he explained.
As in most galaxies, each of these three has a supermassive black hole in its center. Each of these titanic objects possesses enough gravitational force to devour huge stars and not even let their light escape.
When this imminent shock occurs, each black hole extracts matter from its surroundings from the other as they approach. Such activity releases an immense amount of radiation that did not go unnoticed by NASA telescopes.
In addition to the novelty of the finding, it is an important step for future detections, since, according to the latest studies, when there are three black holes interacting, two of these merge faster than when they are without a third party due to gravitational force Extra it brings.
First, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) telescope captured the image of the triple galaxy system thanks to an optical light scan . Then, the Galaxy Zoo project scientists labeled it a colliding galaxy system.
With data from NASA’s WISE mission, it was discovered that the system shone with infrared light , which already gave clues to the activity of black holes during the merger.
Chandra data threw X-ray sources at the galactic centers, which revealed that supermassive black holes were consuming large amounts of cosmic material in the same region.
Likewise, NASA’s NuSTAR mission detected gas and dust around one of the black holes, a symptom of the impending merger.
This is, without a doubt, a milestone for astronomical sciences, since it is extremely difficult to find triple systems of supermassive black holes.
One reason for this is the high probability that clouds of gas and dust are involved, blocking much of the light they emit when they are active.
These difficulties could be overcome thanks to the technology of telescopes both on Earth and in space, which did an exceptional joint work.
“Double and triple black holes are extremely rare, but such systems are actually a natural consequence of galaxy mergers, which we believe is how galaxies grow and evolve,” said co-author Shobita Satyapal of the same university.