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.

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.


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.

Black hole's glowing accretion disk

Black Hole Caught Spinning?

X-ray observations of a distant supermassive black hole might end a decades-long debate over the nature of these X-ray signals. But not everyone’s convinced that the observations are what they appear to be.

Barrel-shaped supernova remnant

Baby Black Hole Discovered

Astronomers investigating a supernova remnant see nothing but swirls of gas. The lack of stellar remains means the explosion must have birthed a black hole only 1,000 years ago.