The Largest Black Holes in the Universe: A Visual Introduction

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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