Monday, December 8, 2014 12:00am -0500

Astronomers Laughed When They Found This.

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Markarian 739 or NGC 3758 Markarian 739 or NGC 3758 NASA's Swift satellite and Chandra X-ray Observatory

When astronomers first saw this gleeful little galaxy, they most likely had a good chuckle. What if you looked through your telescope and saw something smiling back at you? Two black holes in the center of this cheerful galaxy makes it look like a smiley face.


In visible light, Markarian 739 resembles a smiling face, with a pair of bright cores underscored by an arcing spiral arm. This cheerful object is really a pair of merging galaxies. 

Data from Swift and Chandra reveal the eastern core (left) to be a previously unknown supermassive black hole; past studies already had identified one in the western core. The two supermassive black holes are separated by about 11,000 light-years.

Astronomers refer to galaxy centers exhibiting such intense emission as active galactic nuclei (AGN). Yet as common as monster black holes are, only about one percent of them are currently powerful AGN. Binary AGN are rarer still: Markarian 739 is only the second identified within half a billion light-years.

For decades, astronomers have known that the eastern nucleus of Markarian 739 contains a black hole that is actively accreting matter and generating prodigious energy. The Chandra study shows that its western neighbor is too. This makes the galaxy one of the nearest and clearest cases of a binary AGN.

This happy little galaxy is 425 million light-years away. This goes to show anything is possible in our remarkable universe!

If this made you smile share it with friends to make them smile too.

Credit: NASA

Read 3633 times Last modified on Monday, December 8, 2014 1:15pm -0500
Laurel Nendza

Laurel Nendza is the owner and creator of Stellar Eyes.