Three supermassive black holes have been discovered at the core of a distant galaxy, residing 4.2 billion light years from Earth, roughly one-third of the way across the observable Universe. 

Investigation of the odd galaxy was carried out using a network of radio telescopes, separated by as much as 6,200 miles. This Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) technique provides 50 times more detail than the Hubble Space Telescope. 

Two of the black holes orbit close to one another. As they dance around the trio's common center of gravity, they emit wavy jets of charged material. The third of the enigmatic objects, seen "behind" the other two as viewed from Earth, sends out a pair of jets straight out into space. 

Nearly every large galaxy in the Universe is now believed to contain at least one super-massive black hole in its center. These bodies have masses millions or billions of times greater than our sun. Over time, these families of stars occasionally collide and merge. When they do so, the massive black holes can start to orbit one another, creating a multiple system. This discovery of a three-body system could suggest such designs could be more common than once believed. 

"As we found this tight pair after searching only six galaxies, we conclude that tight pairs are more common than hitherto believed," researchers wrote in an article, detailing their discovery. 

Astronomers believe they may have discovered a new way to detect these multi-black-hole galactic cores. The pair of bodies near each other are close enough together that researchers previously believed they were a single object. At one point, researchers thought the system was a quasar. The unique structure of the jets racing of their surfaces could assist astronomers in the search for similar systems elsewhere. 

"The twisted radio jets associated with close pairs may be a very efficient way to find more of these systems that are even closer together," Roger Deane, a radio astronomer at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, told 

If this discovery is confirmed, future astronomers could recognize the presence of closely-orbiting black holes by the wavy jets stemming from the galactic center. 

The galaxy SDSS J150243.09+111557.3 has now been found to possess a three-body black hole in its galactic core. Systems like these, possessing multiple black holes at the center of a galaxy, will eventually collapse into a single body, researchers theorize. 

Discovery of the three-body family of black holes at the heart of SDSS J150243.09+111557.3 was profiled in the journal Nature.

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