For the first time ever, astrophysicists have reliably measured the spinning speed of a supermassive black hole. Let's just say words like "blistering," "breakneck" and "blinding" still manage to come up short.
A massive gas cloud is on a collision course with the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. As this awesome artist's conception shows, it will be torn completely apart. This is our first chance to watch that happen.
In the first billion years after the Big Bang, the universe was a smaller, emptier place, without the huge galaxies that dominate today. But there were already supermassive black holes that had grown shockingly huge by gorging themselves on gas.
Centaurus A is an active galaxy, meaning it gives off extraordinary amounts of radiation, most likely the result of a supermassive black hole. Somewhere inside these gas clouds and dust lanes, that black hole is creating unimaginable cosmic chaos.
Many galaxies have gigantic black holes located at their center, but we're not usually able to actually see just how gigantic they are. Supermassive black holes are shrouded in huge dust clouds...which might be essential for the development of life.
We didn't yet have the technology to notice, but Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, threw one hell of a tantrum a few hundred years ago. It's the only explanation for mysterious x-ray anomalies.
The galaxy in this picture is Centaurus A, but it's being upstaged in its own cosmic neighborhood. Its central black hole is emitting jets that are a million light-years long...and this is our best look yet at this mysterious phenomenon.
The supermassive black hole at the heart of the neighboring galaxy M87 has the mass of 6.6 billion suns. It's the biggest black hole to be precisely measured, and it's us our best shot at really seeing these strange objects.
One of the biggest mysteries about galaxies is how the supermassive black holes at their centers affect the structure of the galaxy itself. Now scientists think they have an answer.
Are supermassive black holes bringing about the end of existence? It's a surprising claim, but one being made after scientists have discovered that the black holes are the largest contributors of entropy in the known universe.