Indian astrophysicists make a remarkable discovery – The merger of three supermassive black holes

Supermassive black holes are difficult to detect because they do not emit any light. However, they can reveal their presence by interacting with their surroundings.

Indian astrophysicists have made a remarkable discovery of three supermassive black holes merging and forming a triple-active galactic nucleus. The event has been described as extremely rare, and the Indian researchers were lucky to witness the event.

The Indian research team from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, consisting of Jyoti Yadav, Mousumi Das, and Sudhanshu Barway along with their counterparts at Francoise Combes of College de France, Chaire Galaxies et Cosmologie, Paris, found something unusual with a known interacting galaxy pair, NGC7733, and NGC7734. 

The researchers noticed a large, bright clump along the northern arm of NGC7733. The bright clump was moving with a different velocity compared to the galaxy itself. 

The clump was actually a small separate galaxy behind the arm. They named this galaxy NGC7733N.

What is a Supermassive black hole?

All stars have a life span. The energy emitted by a star is due to the fusion reaction taking in its core, where Hydrogen is converted into Helium and releases a massive amount of energy. Once a star’s hydrogen is exhausted, it can end into a black hole depending upon its mass. Supermassive black holes are formed when massive stars billions of times bigger than our sun collapses.

Supermassive black holes are difficult to detect because they do not emit any light. However, they can reveal their presence by interacting with their surroundings. Supermassive black holes exist in the center of most galaxies and suck in dust and gas from the surrounding, and some of the mass is emitted as electromagnetic radiation that makes the black hole appear luminous.

The research team led by Mousami Das, Jyoti Yadav, and Sudhanshu Barway from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, based their observation using data from Ultra-Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) onboard the first Indian Space Observatory ASTROSAT, infrared images from the optical telescope located in South Africa, and the European Integral field optical telescope called MUSE mounted on Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.

The interaction and the combining of galaxies are the process in the evolution and death of galaxies and also lead to the formation of supermassive black hole bulges and massive galaxies.

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