300 million light years away at the heart of the Coma Cluster lies one of the largest black holes ever discovered. The Coma Cluster is a large cluster of galaxies containing over 1,000 galaxies that have currently been identified. One of these galaxies is the elliptical NGC 4889. It is featured in NASA’s new image taken by the ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Artists view of the super massive black hole
NGC 4889 shines as the largest and brightest galaxy in the new image and its supermassive black hole is breaking all kinds of records. Astronomers believe that supermassive black holes lie at the center of all large galaxies, including our own Milky Way. In comparison, the mass of the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is about four million times that of our Sun. The mass of the black hole at the center of NGC 4889 is around twenty-one billion times the mass our Sun.
Early in its life, astronomers would classify the black hole as a quasar. A quasar is a massive and remote celestial object, releasing large amounts of energy. It is believed that quasars themselves contain massive black holes and are just a stage in the evolution of some galaxies. At this time as a quasar, NGC 4889’s black hole was devouring all the stars, gas and galactic dust in its path. This massive meal only fueled the black hole into forming an accretion disc which orbits the black hole and accelerates the black hole’s gravitational pull. The galactic dinner is heated up to millions of degrees and expelled around the black hole up to a thousand times the energy output of our own Milky Way.
Once the super-massive black hole’s appetite was filled and the lavish meal, the black hole fell into a deep and dormant state that it is currently in. The environment of the surrounding galaxy is so peaceful that stars are forming from the remaining gas that’s calmly orbiting the black hole.
Quasars and black holes continue to remain mysterious objects to astronomers and scientists. Luckily with new images, thanks to various telescopes around the world, astronomers are able to further their knowledge of these objects. Even though it is impossible to directly see a black hole since light can’t escape its gravitational pull, the mass of a black hole can still be determined.
Astronomers in Hawaii at the W. M. Observatory and at the Gemini North Telescope measured the velocity of stars moving around the center of NG 4889, allowing them to arrive at the extraordinary measurements that of this giant phenomenon.