Supermassive Black Hole Stare Down

Betsy Mason reports in Wired:

New X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory added to an image previously captured by the Hubble Space Telescope created this amazing composite image of two black holes on the verge of colliding.

The two supermassive black holes, which show up as two points of light in the center of the galaxy NGC 6240, are only 3,000 light-years apart. Astronomers think the two will eventually combine into a single, larger black hole.

Also combining to make a whole greater than the sum of its parts are the two pieces of this image, shown below. Space photos are often a combination of multiple images and sets of data, designed to bring out the details and beauty of the subject. In this case, Chandra’s X-ray data and Hubble’s optical data come together to create an image so stunning that it looks like it must be an artist’s rendering.

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