Hey there, human, want to feel some awe? Look at this newly released NASA image set of two galaxies, each with a supermassive black hole at its heart, colliding in a violent spiral of star stuff. Space is awesome, and thanks to improved telescope technology, we're seeing more and more of it every day.
These new images come from NASA's relatively new Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), a black hole-hunting high-energy X-ray telescope now circling the Earth. NuSTAR is specifically designed to spot the types of X-rays that are typically obscured by the thick clouds of hot gas and dust around black holes. We've seen the two colliding galaxies, collectively known as Arp 299, in the past, but the powerful NuSTAR is now revealing unprecedented detail. Astronomers now know, for instance, that the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy on the right is devouring all the gas and dust around it. The other appears to be dormant.
Thanks to NuSTAR, astronomers can now gain a greater understanding of how the universe works. "When galaxies collide, gas is sloshed around and driven into their respective nuclei, fueling the growth of black holes and the formation of stars," said NASA's Andrew Ptak who led a study on the new images. "We want to understand the mechanisms that trigger the black holes to turn on and start consuming the gas."
This stunning new finding is not to be confused with news from earlier this week that two colliding supermassive black holes are about to wreck an entire galaxy, releasing as much energy as 100 million supernovas. This is just bonus awe. [NASA JPL]