Three supermassive black holes are poised to collide.
"We were only looking for pairs of black holes at the time, and yet, through our selection technique, we stumbled upon this amazing system," said Ryan Pfeifle of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the first author of the new study, in a statement. "This is the strongest evidence yet found for such a triple system of actively feeding supermassive black holes."
Researchers had to combine data from telescopes on the ground and in space in order to pinpoint this rare black hole trifecta, according to NASA.
This artistic interpretation shows two black holes on a collision course. In the newfound system, three supermassive black holes are going to merge. (MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images)
One challenge in finding the three supermassive black holes, according to scientists, is that they are likely to be covered in gas and dust, which would block much of their light.
"Through the use of these major observatories, we have identified a new way of identifying triple supermassive black holes. Each telescope gives us a different clue about what's going on in these systems," said Pfeifle. "We hope to extend our work to find more triples using the same technique."
If you're keeping track: The system where the black holes are located is known as SDSS J084905.51+111447.2.