The secrets of supermassive black holes

Astronomers have spotted the most enormous black holes ever detected, inspiring new theories about how such pockets of extreme gravity form. Together, the two objects, which are roughly 300 million light-years away, have more mass than 30 billion suns, University of California at Berkeley astrophysicist Chung-Pei Ma tells the Associated Press. “They are monstrous,” she says. The smaller of the two black holes is 54 percent bigger than any ever found before.

Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so intense that not even light can escape; they can form when stars run out of energy and collapse into themselves. Every galaxy, including our own Milky Way, appears to have a black hole at its center, but until now all of those found have been much smaller

Since these new “supermassive” finds are far bigger than those left by any single dead star, scientists now wonder if they expanded by gobbling galactic matter or by merging with black holes inside other galaxies. Ma says these black holes might also be remnants of quasars that burned out in bright bursts of extreme energy during the early phase of the universe.