The image of NGC 7727, captured on Oct. 25, 2023, between 73 million and 90 million light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, showcases the aftermath of a collision between two spiral galaxies. This image was taken at the Cerro Pachón mountain in Chile and is unique due to its demonstration of the ultimate fate of our Milky Way galaxy while also featuring the closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth ever recorded.
The collision of the two spiral galaxies about a billion years ago has resulted in the formation of the chaotic elliptical galaxy NGC 7727. This process of spiral galaxies merging into elliptical galaxies is common and is thought to be the origin of all elliptical galaxies, according to NASA.
NGC 7727 is particularly interesting due to what’s happening to the nuclei of the two formerly separate galaxies. Each galaxy contains a supermassive black hole, and their proximity, at just 1,600 light-years apart, causes a gravitational tug-of-war that has led to the chaotic arrangement of stars and nebulas in NGC 7727. The supermassive black holes are not equally matched, with one being 6.3 million times the mass of the sun, and the other being as massive as 154 million suns. It is predicted that these two black holes will merge in about 250 million years, producing gravitational waves.
What makes this image stand out is its depiction of bands