NGC 6240: An extremely luminous galaxy
about 400 million light years from Earth.
Caption: The peculiar butterfly shape
of NGC 6240 was caused by the collision of two smaller galaxies.
Chandra's high-resolution image of the galaxy's central region
(inset) revealed not one, but two active giant black holes. Over
the course of the next few hundred million years, the two
supermassive black holes, which are about 3000 light years
apart, will drift toward one another and merge to form one
larger supermassive black hole. The relatively recent merger (30
million years) that formed this galaxy triggered a dramatic
increase in the rate of star formation and supernova explosions.
Heat generated by this activity created the extensive
multimillion degree Celsius gas seen in this image. The red,
green, and blue colors represent low, medium and high X-ray
Scale: Full field is .35 x .3 arcmin; inset is 4 arcsec per side
Chandra X-ray Observatory ACIS
CXC operated for
NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical