Handout photo released by Nature shows a figure depicting the immense size of the black hole discovered in the galaxy NGC 3842. NGC 3842, shown in the background image, is the brightest galaxy in a rich cluster of galaxies. The black hole is at its center and is surrounded by stars (shown as an artist's concept in the central figure). Our solar system (inset) would be dwarfed by it. (AFP Photo/Pete Marenfeld)
Scientists have discovered the two biggest black holes ever observed, each with a mass billions of times greater than the Sun's, according to a study published Monday.
The two giants are located in the heart of a pair of galaxies several hundred million light years from Earth, said the study in scientific journal Nature.
Each black hole is estimated to have a mass about 10 billion times greater than the sun, dwarfing the previously largest-known black hole, which has a mass of 6.3 billion suns.
The University of California, Berkeley, team led by Nicholas McConnell and Chung-Pei Ma said one black hole is located in NGC 3842, the brightest of a cluster of galaxies about 320 million light years from Earth.
The second hole is of "comparable or greater mass" and is located in NGC 4889, the brightest galaxy in the Coma cluster, about 335 million light years away.
"These two black holes are significantly more massive than predicted," the astronomers wrote.
They said their calculations suggest that different evolutionary processes influence the growth of the largest galaxies and their black holes than in smaller galaxies.
Astronomers have long supposed that since the universe began it has harboured black holes with a mass the size of the two newly found giants.
These cosmic gluttons grow in tandem with their galaxies, slurping up gases, planets and stars.
"There is a symbiotic relationship between black holes and their galaxies that has existed since the dawn of time," Kevin Schawinski, a Yale astronomer said in a June study.
NOTE: Material like this is always highly engaging and makes you feel like there’s a reason to keep reading. As my favorite Traffic song put it, “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?” Personally, I thought the biggest black hole ever discovered was Facebook, which seems to drain most useful energy from the universe, drawing it into little vicious circles of self-reference, unlike the efforts of the great Kasimir Malevich, Suprematist supreme.