Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC

Black holes inflict untold destruction on everything they touch, and even though we can’t technically see them, their violent outbursts make the environments surrounding them quite beautiful. This region is an excellent demonstration of the impact supermassive black holes have on their host galaxies

This view was acquired using NASA’s ‘Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array’ (NuSTAR), which focuses on high-energy x-rays. Called Arp 299, these interacting galaxies — separately known as IC 694 and NGC 3690 — lurk about 134 million light-years from Earth in the Ursa Major constellation. Like all moderately-sized galaxies, both harbor supermassive black holes in their central core. 

The black hole in the galaxy on the right is overindulging on gas, while the black hole in the galaxy on the left is either inactive (as in, not actively consuming any interstellar material), or completely hidden from view by dust. As unfortunate as that might sound, the configuration gives us an opportunity to understand the process by which galaxy mergers turn dormant black holes back ‘on.’


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