As you read this, our home galaxy, the Milky Way , and its cosmic neighbor, Andromeda, are traveling on a collision course. Billions of years later, they will shatter together and merge into a single galactic realm. Their stars will live side by side; the planets will mutually hang from each other and the moons will make moon friendships.
While we won’t be around to see this spectacular spectacle, scientists working with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope on Tuesday provided an image that paints a fascinating picture of what this future effect might look like.
NGC 7727 has been imaged and studied in the past, but this is the first time we’ve seen this phenomenon in such intricate detail, according to ESO researchers. This celestial spectacle is located about 89 million light-years from us. It appears as a swirl of stardust from Earth’s vantage point, and most importantly, it was formed by the merging of two separate galaxies. Just as the Milky Way was destined to merge with Andromeda .
These Two Supermassive Black Holes Could Merge in the Future
Also, as the galaxies merging to form NGC 7727 were once trapped by their own supermassive black holes, a pair of voids appears to have converged to lurk near NGC 7727’s center. According to ESO, these gravitational wonders are the closest pair of supermassive black holes ever found and are destined to merge into an even larger black hole in the future .
They’re only 1,600 light-years apart, and they’re incredibly close at this cosmic scale, and from a cosmic perspective, they’re expected to crash very soon, in about 250 million years . When the collision finally happens, it will vibrate the ripples in the fabric of space and time, as Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity might put it, and produce a gravitational force so strong that it is literally incomprehensible to the human mind.