Extremely massive black holes have been discovered

Artist's rendition of Black Holes
Artist's rendition of Black Holes

Researchers have found two extremely massive black holes that have masses of approximately 10 billion times the mass of our sun. Moreover, the mass of these black holes is 50% greater than any other previously mentioned black holes.

Black holes are celestial objects in space with such a strong gravitational pull that no matter or energy can escape from it. They are thought to be created as a result of collapse of stars in upon themselves.

The details of the researchers’ findings will come in the December 8 issue of the journal Nature.

“They may be the dormant remains of quasars that were extremely luminous billions of years ago,” says Professor James Graham, director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and founding member of the team behind the discovery.

Scientists measured the speed of orbiting stars in these galaxies with the help of several telescopes, like the Gemini Observatory, the MacDonald Observatory and the Keck Observatory, and thereby measured the gravitational field of the black holes.

“Black holes inhabit the centers of nearly all galaxies − the centre of our very own Milky Way galaxy harborss a black hole four million times the mass of the sun − relatively speaking, a baby! But only a few dozens of these black holes have been ‘weighed’ carefully,” says Graham.

“We believe that 10-billion solar mass black holes like these are the ultimate power sources for the distant quasars observed in the early universe, one to three billion years after the Big Bang,” he says. Quasars are among the remote high-energy astronomical objects. Sometimes the energy output by quasars becomes equal to the energy output of an entire galaxy.

“Our measurements of black holes with 10-billion solar masses in nearby galaxies show that these types of galaxies originally hosted very luminous quasars,” says Graham. “For the last 10 billion years, these enormous black holes have been dormant.”

“But these newly measured black hole masses are a surprise,” says Graham. “They are significantly more massive than predicted using the previously known correlations. Something that we had not anticipated for the most massive black holes must be at play here.”

According to researchers, these supermassive black holes can also help us in our understanding of the link between the early universe and today’s universe.


Nicholas J. McConnell, Chung-Pei Ma, Karl Gebhardt, Shelley A. Wright, Jeremy D. Murphy, Tod R. Lauer, James R. Graham and Douglas O. Richstone, (2011). Two Nearby 10-Billion Solar Mass Black Holes. Nature.