What's the Latest Development?

Scientists have discovered the two largest black holes on record. They are swallowing up everything, including light, across an area five times the size of our solar system. The supermassive black holes sit at the center of ancient galaxies more than 300 million light years away. "For comparison, these black holes are 2,500 times as massive as the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, whose event horizon [the point beyond which nothing can escape a black hole's gravity] is one fifth the orbit of Mercury."

[By the way, why doesn't our solar system have a clever name like the Milky Way or Jupiter? What would you call our solar system? Tell us in the comment box or on Twitter at #solarsystemname.]

What's the Big Idea?

Because the black holes are so big and so far away, they could give us an indication of how the universe was formed and how early galaxies sustained and nourished themselves. "For an astronomer, finding these insatiable black holes is like finally encountering people nine feet tall, whose great height had only been inferred from fossilized bones. How did they grow so large?" said Chung-Pei Ma, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy. "This rare find will help us understand whether these black holes had very tall parents or ate a lot of spinach."

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