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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.


Ultramassive Black Holes Are Bigger, More Numerous, More Terrifying Than Previously Thought

Black holes. They destroy everything that crosses their path. They’re difficult for scientists to observe and understand. They can fling people and objects back in time, starting an alternate timeline that results in the destruction of an entire species. Wait, no, that’s the setup for Star Trek. But black holes are still really scary. And now scientists have discovered that the largest black holes in the universe are even scarier than previously thought.

Stanford University astrophysicist Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo led a team that used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to analyze 18 of the universe’s brightest galaxy clusters, thought to be home to the biggest black holes. They found black holes larger than any discovered before: Ultramassive black holes with a mass 10-40 billion times the mass of our own sun.

And those estimates might be on the small side. Says Hlavacek-Larrondo,

“Some of our black hole mass predictions are just lower limits, so they could be higher… Just how big do I think they can get? I would bet that a least one 100-billion-solar-mass black hole exists among our objects, which really is ultra-big.”

Um. Yes. That really is ultra-big. I think they need to invent a new word for exactly how big that black hole would be. Might I recommend some variation on holycraptillion?

Hlavacek-Larrondo and company estimated the size of these ultramassive black holes by analyzing the X-rays and radio waves generated by black holes when they destroy the gas, dust, and stars that have the bad luck to come near them. The black holes they found were about 10 times larger than expected, which “may mean we don’t really understand how the very biggest black holes coexist with their host galaxies,” says Andrew Fabian of Cambridge University.

Not that any of those superhuge black holes exist in our galaxy (… I hope), but still. Superhuge black holes whose behavior we don’t understand. We just made it through one apocalypse! Give us a break, universe.

(via: blastr)

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  • Ashe P. Samuels

    Everything about space is absolutely fascinating to me. This hasn’t changed my mind one bit.

    How DO these supermassive black holes (who gets the reference?) not suck up vast quantities of their galaxies? Do they only suck in what comes near a certain distance? Do some unknown materials out there have the ability to resist their pull? Are black holes alive and are just very picky eaters?


  • Charles Boyer

    If black holes are larger and more massive than previously thought, how much of the “lost” mass thought to be dark matter does it account for?

  • Troy Dailey

    …but it’s all just a matter of scale….because, any dollar amount over 8 figures and it just turns into abstraction….it is beyond my capacity to spend it in one month (without resorting to being ridiculous). With black holes…once the mass is “freak’n huge”….it doesn’t matter to me that I might be underestimating the actual size.

  • Rune Jensen

    Black holes can NOT fling people back in time. Please correct that.