What is a black hole? Do black holes even exist? How are they formed? Can we see them?

Even the most commonly asked questions on black holes are difficult to answer. Black holes are the ultimate unknown — these rents in the fabric of spacetime let nothing, not even light, escape. Yet we know they exist in part because of the light shed by their surroundings. Ironically, the blackest objects of the universe can also be surrounded by some of the brightest stuff. Supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies become powerful beacons when they feed — gas that flows into these gaping maws heats up and glows so bright that it can be see all the way from the early universe.

Each of the four articles in this free ebook from Sky & Telescope magazine helps reveal the mysteries of supermassive black holes, including how they form and what role they play in the larger galaxy. And one day, we might even be able to observe the beasts themselves.

Inside this free guide you'll discover four articles from the experts, who explain various theories and facts about black holes.

  • "A Quasar in Every Galaxy?" by Robert Irion summarizes observations and theories about the supermassive black holes that exist in the core of almost every major galaxy.
  • "How Black Holes Helped Build the Universe" by Christopher Wanjek shows how, without black holes, we wouldn't recognize the universe around us, and we might not even exist.
  • "Spinning Hearts of Darkness" by Laura Brenneman observes spinning black holes to help answer a fundamental question: how are black holes formed?
  • "Einstein's Shadow" by Camille Carlisle introduces a planet-wide telescope — the global Event Horizon Telescope — that has set its sights on imaging a black hole's silhouette. One day soon, we will have direct evidence that black holes are real.

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