The image captured on Oct. 25, 2023, of NGC 7727, located in the constellation Aquarius between 73 million and 90 million light-years away, reveals the aftermath of a collision between two spiral galaxies. This image was taken on the Cerro Pachón mountain in Chile and is special because it demonstrates the ultimate fate of our Milky Way galaxy while also featuring the closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth ever recorded.
The image shows bands of interstellar dust and gas, which reveal the tangled remnants of the collision. The collision of 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