Black Holes

Black holes are among the weirdest things in astronomy. Predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, black holes objects so massive and compact that nothing, not even light can escape. Since their prediction from theory, stellar-mass black holes have been found scattered throughout the Milky Way and supermassive black holes containing millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun have been found inhabiting the Milky Way’s center and the cores of most large galaxies. Some are dark; others blaze their way out of quiescence as they guzzle gas from their surroundings — we see these black holes as X-ray sources and brilliant quasars. Peruse the stories below to get the latest news on black holes observations and theory.

Artist's impression of a quasar, one of the two primary contributors of UV light to the local universe.
NASA/ESA

Revealing Hidden Black Holes

The NuSTAR telescope has spied high-energy X-rays from five supermassive black holes shrouded in a thick veil of dust and gas, a test run that will lead to a better census of these hidden beasts.

http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2015/ngc2276/index.html

Potential Mid-size Black Hole Found

Scientists have found what seems to be an intermediate-mass black hole in a spiral galaxy 100 million light-years away. If its size is confirmed, it could provide much-needed insight into black hole evolution.

artist's impression of a black hole

Monster Black Hole in Early Universe

Astronomers have discovered one of the brightest quasars in the early universe. The source, SDSS J010013.02+280225.8 (hereafter J0100+2802), is powered by a supermassive black hole at a redshift of 6.3, meaning that its light left it 12.8 billion years ago.

Quasar illustration

The Quasar Main Sequence

A new diagram might link the diverse visible-light characteristics of quasars to two physical properties — essentially, their accretion rate and orientation. If the analysis holds up, it could point the way toward a long-sought unification.

NGC 5548.ESA/Hubble and NASA. Acknowledgement: Davide de Martin.

Gas Streamer Eclipses AGN

Astronomers have detected a high-speed, long-lasting gas streamer spewing from the active galactic nucleus of NGC 5548. This discovery might provide new insights into how supermassive black holes influence their host galaxies.

An artist's conception of an AGN.
NASA / Dana Berry (SkyWorks Digital)

Black Hole Trio Found

Astronomers have discovered that one member of a pair of supermassive black holes is actually a pair itself, turning the system into the most distant black hole triplet yet detected and raising hopes for future discoveries.