Thursday, December 8, 2011

Super Black Holes: New Records, If Real

On December 5th astronomers announced finding two supermassive black holes that may be the most massive ever directly “weighed.” The discovery suggests that a distinct scenario of how giant black holes form may be needed to explain these objects’ existence. As could be expected, the news immediately shot into the headlines of the world’s major media.

But let’s tread carefully. A look at the researchers’ paper (to appear in the December 8th Nature) shows that the masses’ uncertainty ranges are wide enough that there’s a chance neither hole breaks the scale.

artist's illustration of galactic core
This illustrations shows what stars crowded into the central regions of a giant elliptical galaxy might look like as they swirl around the supermassive black hole.
Gemini Observatory / AURA, artwork by Lynette Cook 


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