Black Holes, Outer Space

What Is A Super Massive Black Hole?

The center of our galaxy hosts a super massive black hole and this one is approximately four times the size of the sun.
A stellar-mass black hole in orbit with a companion star located about 6,000 light years from Earth.

You have probably heard about a black hole, but what about a super massive black hole? Compared to a general black hole, the mass contained in the super massive type is a million to a billion times more. In the galaxy Earth resides in, scientists have confirmed approximately five super massive black holes.

Exploring Nearby Super Massive Black Holes

The center of our galaxy hosts a super massive black hole and this one is approximately four times the size of the sun. In theory, scientists were able to observe this black hole and noticed stars orbiting something that appeared to just be empty space.

In the galaxy of Andromeda exists another super massive black hole that has been observed by scientists. The size is equivalent to approximately 100 million solar masses.

How Do Super Massive Black Holes Occur?

A debate still exists concerning exactly how super massive black holes form. It is largely believed that the accretion of matter and black hole mergers result in this space phenomenon. Scientists have other theories, but they have not yet been proven.

Active Galactic Nucleus
This artist illustration shows the thick ring of dust that can obscure the energetic processes that occur near the supermassive black hole of an active galactic nuclei. Credit: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook

How Are Galaxies Affected by Super Massive Black Holes?

Scientists believe that the size of a super massive black hole is related to the mass of the galaxy’s bulge, which is the central area of a galaxy. The star’s orbital speed within a galaxy also seems to be impacted by this type of black hole. The outer stars seem to travel at a faster speed, the larger the black hole.

You can see that while similar to a black hole overall, a super massive black hole is truly its own phenomenon. Knowing more about this gives you a glimpse into space and lets you see that the galaxy is far more fascinating than most people could ever imagine.

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Jamie is an amateur astronomer and every day space geek.