in the constellation Virgo
Roughly 175 million times the mass of the Sun
Diameter larger than the size of the asteroid belt.
Astronomers discovered a likely supermassive black hole in the core of NGC 4697 as part of a survey of possible host galaxies with Hubble Space Telescope. NGC 4697 is classified as an elliptical galaxy, although it is slightly flattened into a disk-like shape. Images also show a dark, wide band of dust encircling the center of the galaxy. By measuring the orbital motions of stars near the center of the galaxy, a team of astronomers concluded that the stars are orbiting a black hole of roughly 50 million to 100 million times the mass of the Sun.
This and other black holes in the hearts of galaxies suggest that there is a link between the black hole's mass and the overall mass of the galaxy. There is also evidence that the supermassive black holes may form first, and form as a sort of gravitational "seed" to attract the gas and dust that gives birth to a galaxy's stars.
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This document was last modified: November 19, 2009.