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.

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.

AGN_Artists_Conception

A New Galactic Yardstick

Astronomers have developed a new method to measure distances to bright but faraway galaxies, a tool which will help better constrain the expansion rate of the universe.

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2000/2000/37/image/a/

Dust in the Heart of Circinus

Infrared observations of the Circinus Galaxy may help reveal the shape of the dusty region fueling its active galactic nucleus and shed light on what governs dust structures in other galaxies.

This composite of images from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope reveals multiple images of a distant quasar. (Each of the four bright pink points around the ring is an image of the region around the same supermassive black hole.) Astronomers used Chandra and XMM-Newton data to measure how quickly the black hole is spinning.

Black Hole Spins Super Fast

X-ray observations and cosmic coincidence unveil the details of a distant supermassive black hole. The result could be a first step in expanding our understanding of how black holes have beefed themselves up over the last several billion years.

Infrared view of Messier 83

Black Hole Ate Too Much

A stellar-mass black hole in the iconic galaxy M83 seems to have kept eating long after it should have stopped. If true, the discovery could have implications for how much black holes can affect their environments.

binary black hole

A Double Black Hole?

Strange emission from a distant galaxy paints an enigmatic picture of what’s happening inside its core. One solution: instead of one supermassive black hole, the galaxy hosts two trapped in a tight dance around each other.

Depiction of Cygnus X-1

Black Hole Spews Atoms

Observations reveal ionized metals in the jet shot out by a black hole, long-sought information that will help astronomers understand how these objects create their powerful beams.

magnetar

A Cosmic Sleight of Hand

Astronomers have been waiting for our galaxy’s slumbering supermassive black hole to stir for a snack. Instead, the universe handed them a different treat.