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Three Supermassive Black Holes Discovered, Researchers Expecting More

Update Date: Jun 26, 2014 09:20 AM EDT

Some galaxies have not one but two or more giant black holes in their centers, according to a new research which describes a galaxy with three supermassive black holes chasing each other at its core more than 4 billion light years from Earth. 

Newly discovered black holes will be the fifth known triple supermassive black hole system in the universe. 

"What remains extraordinary to me is that these black holes, which are at the very extreme of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, are orbiting one another at 300 times the speed of sound on Earth," Roger Deane, lead study author and University of Cape Town astrophysicist, said in a statement.

Galaxies that are as huge as ours are believed to contain a supermassive black hole at its center. But some have more than one central black hole. Scientists believe that it is probably the result of two or more smaller galaxies merging. 

"Our research shows that close-pair black holes may be much more common than previously thought, although their detection requires extremely sensitive and high-resolution observations," said study co-author Zsolt Paragi, an astronomer at the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe, or JIVE, in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands, according to Los Angeles times. 

Researchers said the gravitational effects of binary systems may provide new insights into the formation and evolution of galaxies. 

"As they coalesce, tight binary supermassive black hole systems emit powerful gravitational waves - ripples in the fabric of space-time that propagate at the speed of light," said Greg Taylor, a University of New Mexico astrophysicist who was not involved in the discovery, but wrote an accompanying News and Views article in Nature.

"The detection of these waves would provide additional confirmation of Einstein's general theory of relativity, and would give astrophysicists a new way to explore the cosmos," Taylor wrote.

The research has been published in the journal Nature

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