Nerd Know-How: Why Black Holes Are Just Awesome

You can’t deny that black holes are pretty bad ass; these cosmic monsters have gravity so strong that not even light can escape. However, if you think these Rock and Roll Gods of space are all the same, you have another thing coming. There are loads of different kinds of black holes, from the small-but-deadly to the giant beasts, so let’s take a closer look at some of the most extreme black holes around. Knowing about them might not do much for your environmental wellness, but it’s still pretty cool.


1. The Biggest: At the core of every galaxy, it is thought that there are supermassive black holes which have millions to billions of times the mass of our sun. In fact, the largest black holes known to science were recently discovered in two nearby galaxies; the NGC 3842 and the NGC 4889. The former is the brightest galaxy in the Leo cluster nearly 320 million light years away, and its central black hole contains 9.7 billion solar masses. However, the black hole at the centre of the NGC 4889, the brightest galaxy in the Coma cluster more than 335 million light years away, has an even larger mass.


2. The Small and Mighty: As it stands, the smallest black hole we know about has a mass that’s around three times that of the sun. This black hole, officially titled the IGR J17091-3624, is, in theory, near the minimum limit that a black hole needs in order to be stable. Still, don’t think that this little monster is small and frail; it’s capable of 20 million mph winds, which puts it at 10 times faster than any other stellar-mass black hole yet observed.


3. The Cannibal: If you’re unlucky enough to drift too close to a black hole, you’re going to get devoured. This can even be said of other black holes, and one rather monstrous black hole at the heart of one galaxy has recently been found to be being consumed by an even larger black hole. This discovery by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is the first of its kind, and shows that the two black holes at the centre of a galaxy dubbed NGC3393 have a mass of one million and 30 million times the mass of the sun, respectively.


4. The Bullet-Shooter: Although you might think of black holes as sucking in matter, they can actually give as good as they get. About 28,000 light-years away from Earth, a black hole called H1743-322, which harbours five to 10 times the mass of the sun, was found to have pulled matter off a companion star, and then spat some of it back out as gigantic “bullets” of gas. These black hole bullets moved at nearly a quarter the speed of light.


5. The Oldest: Officially known as ULAS J1120+0641, the oldest black hole found yet was born about 770 million years after the universe was created – which is thought to be about 13.7 billion years ago. However, scientists are a little bit stumped by this black hole, as the ancient enigma seems to be 2 billion times the mass of the sun, and it’s difficult to explain how black holes became so massive so soon after the beginning of the universe.


6. The Brightest: Sure, black holes have gravitational pulls so strong that even light cannot escape, but they also comprise the heart of quasars, which are the most luminous, most powerful and most energetic objects in the universe. While supermassive black holes suck surrounding gas and dust into the centre of galaxies, they also spew out huge amounts of energy.

Comments are closed.