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The galaxy NGC 6240. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA

A galaxy with three supermassive black holes swirling within it could help astronomers piece together just how some of the largest galaxies formed.

Why it matters: The discovery in the NGC 6240 galaxy located about 400 million light-years away marks the first time three supermassive black holes have been found in such close proximity to one another. The galaxy gives scientists an unprecedented chance to study the motions of three huge black holes that were once likely parts of three different galaxies as they merge.

What they found: Scientists originally thought the galaxy was host to two supermassive black holes, but new, more detailed mapping revealed the third, they report in a study in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

  • They think the strange galaxy formed when three different galaxies with supermassive black holes in their centers collided.
  • Each black hole in the galaxy is more than 90 million times the mass of the Sun, and all are located in a space less than 3,000 light-years across.
  • "We typically observe mergers of two major galaxies, which in turn harbor a black hole each, so two black holes close together happens relatively often," study author Peter Weilbacher of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam told Axios via email.

What's next: After millions of years, the three black holes are expected to merge with one another, potentially creating strong gravitational waves that ripple the fabric of space and time.

Go deeper

Updated 24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

The massive early vote

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Early voting in the 2020 election across the U.S. on Saturday had already reached 65.5% of 2016's total turnout, according to state data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic and its resultant social-distancing measures prompted a massive uptick in both mail-in ballots and early voting nationwide, setting up an unprecedented and potentially tumultuous count in the hours and days after the polls close on Nov. 3.

Updated 47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Ipsos poll: COVID trick-or-treat.
  2. World: Greece tightens coronavirus restrictions as Europe cases spike — Austria reimposes coronavirus lockdowns amid surge of infections
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Technology: Fully at-home rapid COVID test to move forward.
  5. States: New York rolls out new testing requirements for visitors.

Trump's legacy is shaped by his narrow interests

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Trump's policy legacy is as much defined by what he's ignored as by what he's involved himself in.

The big picture: Over the past four years, Trump has interested himself in only a slim slice of the government he leads. Outside of trade, immigration, a personal war against the "Deep State" and the hot foreign policy issue of the moment, Trump has left many of his Cabinet secretaries to work without interruption, let alone direction.