NGC 6240

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Chandra X-ray
Observatory Center
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
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NGC 6240: A galaxy about 330 million light years from Earth
(Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/MIT/C.Canizares, M.Nowak); Optical (NASA/STScI))

Caption: NGC 6240 is a system in which two supermassive black holes are a mere 3,000 light years apart. These black holes (the two bright point-like sources in the middle) are in such close proximity, scientists think, because they are in the act of spiraling toward each other -a process that began about 30 million years earlier. It is estimated that the two black holes will eventually drift together and merge into a larger black hole some tens to hundreds of millions of years from now. This image of NGC 6240 contains new X-ray data from Chandra (shown in red, orange, and yellow) that has been combined with an optical image from Hubble.

Scale: Image is 124 arcmin across.

Chandra X-ray Observatory ACIS Image

CXC operated for NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory