They’re not your ordinary black holes. They’re bigger. They’re badder. They are supermassive black holes capable of producing the largest eruptions since the Big Bang. But, despite their massive size, we’re just starting to understand these forces operating in the center of galaxies sometimes billions of light years from Earth.

The documentary above (running about 18 minutes) offers a reasonably good primer on supermassive black holes. Or, to get another angle on things, you can turn to Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics, a course taught by Charles Bailyn at Yale. Lecture 15 (watch here) is specifically dedicated to these mother-of-all black holes.

The full course is available in these formats (YouTube – iTunes Audio – iTunes Video – Download Course) and otherwise listed in our big collection of Free Online Courses.


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  • Christian Hege says:

    I wrote this in 2010, after trying to explain this to my kids
    —————————————–

    Cosmology. Sunday Oct 17, 2010

    What is there, where there isn’t any space?
    The question was my daughter’s, yesterday.
    I groped for context: nothing commonplace
    Would work (“Ya mean yer room?”) — the ev’ryday
    Was not her subject. “Do you mean to ask,
    The nowhere, where the universe is not?”
    And she assented. Now I had the task,
    With just the little knowledge that I’ve got,
    Of keeping her from twisting in a knot.

    “There’s nothing, love. There isn’t even Where.”
    (I knew it wasn’t going well already.)

    “But where are WE? And if there’s nothing there,
    Then what IS there?” (She held her thesis steady.)

    “I told you how the universe was made,
    Remember? From a singularity?”

    She thought a moment, utterly unswayed,
    And asked, “Where was it? Out, just floating free?”

    “There wasn’t any Where to float outside.”
    The Where was all inside. The Bang began…”

    And then my son, who’s younger, tried to hide;
    The concept of a real, and finite span
    That spacetime might one day have lived and died
    Is more to ask, of such a little man,
    Than he can hear today. His sister can.
    She’s working out the cosmos’ greater plan.

  • Victor says:

    Very good site

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