Scientists spot two gargantuan black holes with masses 10 billion times our Sun

Astronomers say the newly discovered black holes are far bigger than any discovered in space so far

Astronomers today said they have spotted the two most "supermassive" black holes -- 10 billion times the mass of our Sun -- known to exist in any galaxy.

One of the newly discovered black holes is 9.7 billion solar masses and is located in the elliptical galaxy known as NGC 3842, which is the brightest galaxy in the Leo cluster 320 million light-years away.  The second is as large or larger and sits in the elliptical galaxy known as NGC 4889, which is the brightest galaxy in the Coma cluster about 336 million light-years from Earth, according to the astronomers.

Approximately 63 supermassive black holes have been found at the centers of nearby galaxies. The largest for over three decades was a 6.3-billion solar mass black hole in the center of the galaxy known as M87.

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Black holes are thought to be dense concentrations of matter that produce such strong gravitational pull that not even light can escape,  the astronomers stated.

These 10 billion solar mass black holes have remained hidden until now, presumably because they are living in quiet retirement, said Chung-Pei Ma, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy in a statement. During their active quasar days some 10 billion years ago, they cleared out the neighborhood by swallowing vast quantities of gas and dust. The surviving gas became stars that have since orbited peacefully. According to Ma, these monster black holes, and their equally monster galaxies that likely contain a trillion stars, settled into obscurity at the center of galaxy clusters.

Astronomers believe that many, if not all, galaxies have a massive black hole at the center, with the larger galaxies harboring larger black holes. The largest black holes are found in elliptical galaxies, which are thought to result from the merger of two spiral galaxies. Ma found, however, that mergers of elliptical galaxies themselves could produce the largest elliptical galaxies as well as supermassive black holes approaching 10 billion solar masses. These black holes can grow even larger by consuming gas left over from a merger.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley,  the University of Texas; the National Optical Astronomy Observatory; and University of Michigan wrote up the paper on the discovery .

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