Powerful, influential figures exert a irresistible pull, gathering an entourage around them. It’s a pattern that repeats on celestial levels. Our planet has the moon, but also a host of other artificial satellites that we’ve used to boost Earth’s follower count. The sun has planets, moons, asteroids, and comets. But neither can compare to galaxies like our Milky Way, which not only hosts hundreds of billions of stars but also has additional satellites, entire dwarf galaxies that chill in our galaxy’s neighborhood.
At the core of each large galaxy lies a supermassive black hole with the mass of 1 million suns. New research shows that these celestial vacuum cleaners do more than just devour nearby objects—they also grow to a size that eventually suppresses a galaxy’s ability to churn out new stars, effectively rendering them sterile.
Scientists trying to unlock the secrets of our universe’s origin need to look no further than the photography studio of Thomas Blanchard and Oilhack. By mixing nothing more than paints, oil, and soap, the artists manage to create colorful miniature universes full of strange, tiny alien worlds.
You think our galaxy is special? Ha. Our boring pinwheel of gas and dark matter might be a nice hangout for humans. But 750 or so million light years away, there’s an elliptical galaxy, Galaxy 0402+379, whose two supermassive black holes are orbiting each other from a distance of only 24 or so light years. Their combined mass is around 15 billion times that of our Sun.
Spoiler alert: The universe is flat. But there’s a lot of subtlety packed into that innocent-looking statement. What does it mean for a 3D object to be “flat”? How do we measure the shape of the universe anyway? Since the universe is flat, is that…it? Is there anything else interesting to say?
Oh yes, there is.
It’s a happy day when astronomers figure out what’s up with an enormous space blob—and the answer doesn’t imply the immediate destruction of humanity.