A monstrous black hole lies at the center of a distant galaxy photographed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
The galaxy, called M91, is located approximately 55 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices. It is a barred spiral galaxy, boasting a prominent central bar-shaped structure composed of bright stars.
However, behind the galaxy’s central bar lies a behemoth black hole that weighs somewhere between 9.6 and 38 million times as much as the sun, according to a statement from the European Space Agency (ESA), which is a partner on the Hubble Space Telescope.
“While M91’s prominent bar makes for a spectacular galactic portrait, it also hides an astronomical monstrosity,” according to the ESA statement. “Like our own galaxy, M91 contains a supermassive black hole at its center.”
The photo of M91 was captured using Wide Field Camera 3 on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Researchers were able to weigh the galaxy’s central black hole using archived Hubble data, originally collected during a 2009 study.
The recent image, which the ESA shared on April 11, was captured as part of an initiative to study the connection between young stars and the clouds of cold gas in which they form. The team used Hubble observations, captured in ultraviolet and visible light, combined with data from the ground-based Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), which observes galaxies at radio wavelengths. This combination provided a detailed view of the galaxy.
You can see the latest updates and observations from the Hubble Space Telescope online.