SPOTTED: Galaxies MERGE as supermassive black holes COLLIDE in shock new pictures

The two merging galaxies of galaxy NGC 6240

Most prior observations of colliding galaxies have caught the coalescing black holes at earlier stages when they were about 10 times farther away.

"Computer simulations of galaxy smashups show us that black holes grow fastest during the final stages of mergers, near the time when the black holes interact, and that's what we have found in our survey", said study team member Laura Blecha of the University of Florida, in Gainesville.

The scientists, led by Eureka Scientific researcher Michael Koss, were able to capture the images by looking through the thick walls of gas and dust that surround the galaxies' cores, leading to the incredible images.

Next, the research team analyzed another catalog of galaxies from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii whose X-ray signatures matched the Swift readings.

The images were taken by the Hubble Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 and show the galaxy NGC 6240.

The high-resolution images taken by the astronomers give a close-up view of a phenomenon that astronomers believe was more common in the early universe.

As two galaxies finally merge, their black holes emit gravitational waves, which are a form of powerful energy that causes ripples in space-time.

The images presage what will likely happen in our own cosmic backyard, in about a billion years, when our Milky Way merges with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy and their respective central black holes will smash together. As the galaxies get closer, the super massive black holes that reside in their center will eventually fuse in order to form a larger black hole.

The researchers first engaged in the search for hidden black holes, after examining the x-ray data collected over 10 years orbital Observatory Swift.

The researchers then combed through the Hubble archive, zeroing in on the merging galaxies they spotted in the X-ray data.

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The research team was first inspired by an image from the Hubble telescope that showed two galaxies almost combined into one, and it was used as the model for the study.

Their results suggest that more than 17 percent of these galaxies host a pair of black holes at their center, which are locked in the late stages of spiraling ever closer together before merging into a single, ultra-massive black hole.

"This is the first large systematic survey of 500 galaxies that really isolated these hidden late stage black hole mergers that are heavily obscured and highly luminous", Dr. Koss said.

The new work was detailed online today (Nov. 7) in the journal Nature. "We found a surprising number of supermassive black holes growing larger and faster in the final stages of galaxy mergers".

It's not easy to find galaxy nuclei so close together.

The research team looked for galaxies had active, luminous black holes obscured by large amounts of dust and gas.

A galaxy merger is a billion-plus-year process as two galaxies dance toward each other before finally joining together.

The astronomers targeted galaxies with an average distance of 330 million light-years from Earth.

A similar result may occur when the Milky Way galaxy will eventually clash with the nearby Andromeda galaxy. Such processes produce a very strong radiation, and also are probably the driving force behind the quasars are among the brightest objects in the Universe. This is because when the merger of a pair of galaxies is almost complete, they are surrounded by thick clouds of dust and gas, and only very high-resolution imagery can isolate the two galaxies' colliding nuclei. Right now, hardware is a huge limitation, but, once the James Webb Space Telescope is deployed in 2021, scientists will be able to measure masses, growth rates, and other physical parameters of black hole pairs.

"Our data argues for the second case, that these galaxy mergers are really critical in fueling the growth of supermassive black holes".

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