Yes, I said billion.
During a survey of 18 galaxy clusters, Chandra detected enormous outbursts of energy from ten of the brightest galaxies - such as the elliptical galaxy at the center of PKS 0745-19, seen above. These outbursts have cleared dark gaps in the hot, x-ray bright gas clouds surrounding the clusters, preventing the diffuse gas from condensing to form stars.
Because outbursts of this size would have to be fueled by the consumption of enormous amounts of material - capable by only the most massive black holes - scientists have calculated that these must be truly ultra-ultramassive... up to ten times more massive than earlier estimates. And if ten of these behemoths have been found in such a small collection of galaxies, it stands to reason that there must be more - lots more.
"Our results show that there may be many more ultramassive black holes in the universe than previously thought," said study leader Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo of Stanford University.
More research and modeling will be needed to confirm the team's results, including comparison to a known ultramassive black hole in the galaxy M87, located in the nearby Virgo cluster of galaxies.