Image of the Day: Ultramassive black hole

As with many things in the Universe, black holes exist on a scale that our puny little pudding brains are simply not equipped to deal with. Take the RX J1532 galactic cluster, for example. RX J1532 is the home of a black hole that might have a mass of ten billion suns, making it one of the largest that we've ever seen: an ultramassive black hole. Living next to an absolute monster like this is not a pleasant experience. What this image (a combination of data from the Chandra X-ray observatory and an NSF radar array) shows are two massive voids in space on either side of the central spiral galaxy where the black hole lives. The black hole is so strong that it's emitting shockwaves (sound waves, basically) that are blasting away gas to form these cavities, each one of which is as wide as our entire galaxy is.

Generally, structures of hot gasses (shown above in purple) tend to collapse in on themselves, eventually forming huge numbers of new stars and planets and stuff. This ultramassive black hole, however, is preventing that from happening, which is bad news for any sort of life that was hoping to evolve anywhere around there. Fortunately, black holes at this scale are relatively rare (we've only seen about a dozen or so in the entire universe), so let's just be thankful that we're nowhere near one. For now.

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