Nautilus has this fascinating piece on the most massive object in the universe, a black hole in the heart of the M87 galaxy that is 6.6 billion times the mass of the sun.
But how did these black holes grow so massive? The simple answer: Just as big galaxies grew by colliding and merging (as described in Steve Nadis recent Nautilus piece, The Stories That Galaxies Tell), the largest black holes form when pairs of smaller black holes merge. Trying to grasp the story in greater detail pushes both our theoretical and observational limits: Colliding black holes demand complex computer simulations to understand and sophisticated machines to detect. Studying black hole coalescence may be the best way to understand the effects of absurdly strong gravity, potentially revealing entirely new phenomena.
Black holes seem to have a close connection with their host galaxies, hinting at their shared evolutionary history. The size of a black hole, for example, seems to mirror the size of the central region of its galaxy. Astronomers do not expect to see super-massive black holes?those with masses millions or billions of times greater than the Sun?in tiny galaxies or vice-versa (though at least one seems to violate the rule for unknown reasons).
Additional info can be found on the Wikipedia article on M87.
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