Sometimes black holes just don’t follow the
rules. Astronomers announced in February that
they found a black hole much bigger than it
has any right to be — 12 billion times our sun’s mass,
a shocking weight considering its age. The finding
challenges theories of how black holes form.
When Xue-Bing Wu of Beijing’s Peking University
and colleagues wanted to find the universe’s oldest
black holes, they looked for bright old galaxies, since
most large galaxies have a central supermassive black
hole. When a black hole pulls in nearby stars and
gas clumps, the material circles the dark object, like
water around a drain. Friction in this disk heats the
material, which then glows.