This new NASA animation highlights the “super” in supermassive black holes.
These monsters lurk in the centers of most big galaxies, including our own Milky Way, and contain between 100,000 and tens of billions of times more mass than our Sun.
Any light crossing the event horizon – the black hole’s point of no return – becomes trapped forever, and any light passing close to it is redirected by the black hole’s intense gravity. Together, these effects produce a “shadow” about twice the size of the black hole’s actual event horizon.
The animation shows 10 supersized black holes that occupy center stage in their host galaxies, including the Milky Way and M87, scaled by the sizes of their shadows. Starting near the Sun, the camera steadily pulls back to compare ever-larger black holes to different structures in our solar system.