Using data collected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope on galaxies up to 3.5 billion light years away from Earth, astrophysicists were able to detect what is likely to be the most massive black holes ever discovered in the universe.
The team studied 72 galaxies located at the center of the universe’s brightest and most massive galaxy clusters and their calculations showed that these “ultramassive” black holes are growing faster than the stars in their respective galaxies.
Illustration of an “ultramassive” black hole detected by the team of astrophysicists. Credit: NASA
“A black hole is an invisible celestial object whose gravitational pull is so strong that neither matter nor light can escape it – it swallows everything in its path like a bottomless vortex,” explained Professor Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo, professor in the Department of Physics at Université de Montréal.
Astronomers calculated the masses of black holes detected in these galaxy clusters by analyzing their radio wave and X-ray emissions. The results showed that the masses of ultramassive black holes are roughly 10 times greater than those originally projected calculated using a different method which assumes that black holes grow in tandem with their galaxies.
Almost half of the sample’s black holes are estimated to be at least 10 billion times more massive than our sun. This puts them in a class of extreme heavyweights that certain astronomers call “ultramassive black holes,” Hlavacek-Larrondo said.
Research is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society