Scientists have discovered two new black holes of record-breaking dimensions.
Astronomers at the University of Berkeley, Calif., are reporting they have measured the two largest black holes known so far, each weighing in at 10 billion times the mass of our sun. The black holes are in clusters of elliptical galaxies more than 300 million light years away.
The findings, published this week in Nature, also suggest that there is a difference in the way the largest supermassive black holes grew to such large proportions relative to their somewhat smaller cousins.
A black hole is “a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying,” according to NASA’s website. Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center.
One of the new black holes is located in a galaxy known as NGC 4889, which is about 336 million light-years away from the Earth. The other is located in a cluster of stars known as Abell 1367, about 331 million light-years away.
Scientists at NASA use satellites and telescopes in order to see and study the invisible black holes. Black holes, NASA says, may hold a role in the formation and evolution of galaxies.
“Measurements of these massive black holes will help us understand how their host galaxies were assembled, and how the holes achieved such monstrous mass,” said Nicholas J. McConnell, a graduate student at Berkeley, according to The New York Times.
Previously, the largest black hole known was in galaxy M87, only 54 million light-years from Earth. Hubble scientists have found that new stellar-mass black hole is born in a supernova every second.