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Hubble Telescope Captures Supermassive Black Hole on Camera

at4:55 pm | By

The Hubble Telescope has photographed an amazing thing.

From marvelous star clusters to distant galaxies, the Hubble Telescope has been one of mankind’s most useful tools for space exploration and documentation since it launched in April 1990.

Most recently, the telescope captured an image of the galaxy with the supermassive black hole, and the scientific and layman communities alike are abuzz with discussion over the infinitely mysterious realities of these invisible and ominous objects.

But given the size of this one, the discussion is well-merited. At 21 billion times the mass of the Sun, further exploration of this black hole is more than newsworthy.

black hole intro


Yet even at its massive size, this isn’t the biggest black hole we’ve ever discovered.

Located in the center of elliptical galaxy NGC 4889, the black hole is a safe 300 million light years away.

black hole galaxy


NGC 4889 was discovered by British astronomer Frederick William Herschel I in 1785, and it is the “largest and the most massive galaxy easily visible to Earth.”

The galaxy is the bright cluster on the left in the photo above.

While the existence of the supermassive black hole has been known for some time, scientists have acquired more accurate measurements of it over the past few years.

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A 2011 study first approximated the black hole to be 21 billion times the mass of the Sun. That’s about 5,200 times more massive than the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Its event horizon — the area from which light cannot escape the black hole — is about 130 billion kilometers in diameter. For comparison, that makes it 15 times the diameter of Neptune’s entire orbit around the Sun.

Simply put, it’s huge.

And though black holes cannot be seen since light cannot pass through them, this recent footage from the Hubble Space Telescope is what helped scientists draw comparative calculations to verify the mass of the black hole.