Image of the Day: One of the Most Massive Black Holes in the Universe

Weighing-a-black-hole (1)

NGC 4649 is a giant galaxy about 51 million light years from Earth that contains one of the biggest black holes ever found in the local universe.This is a composite image of data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (shown in purple) and Hubble Space Telescope (blue) of the giant elliptical galaxy, located about 51 million light years from Earth. Although Although NGC 4649 contains one of the biggest black holes in the local Universe, there are no overt signs of its presence because the black hole is in a dormant state.

The lack of a bright central point in either the X-ray or optical images shows that the supermassive black hole does not appear to be rapidly pulling in material towards its event horizon, nor generating copious amounts of light as it grows. Also, the very smooth appearance of the Chandra image shows that the hot gas producing the X-rays has not been disturbed recently by outbursts from a growing black hole.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of California Irvine/P.Humphrey et al. Optical: NASA/STScI


"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily