The old saying that records are made to be broken applies just as well to astronomy as to sports. In 2006, for example, astronomers discovered the brightest exploding star yet seen. But it took only a few months to find one that was even brighter.
And last year, a team of astronomers discovered a record-setting black hole, only to have another team announce an even bigger one just a couple of weeks later.
Both black holes are of the "stellar-mass" variety, which means they're as massive as big stars. In fact, they formed when heavy stars blew themselves apart and their cores collapsed -- perhaps in explosions like the very bright ones seen in 2006. The black holes are super-dense objects with such powerful gravity that not even light can escape them.
The first black hole is in the galaxy M33. Using observations from telescopes on the ground and in space, astronomers detected the black hole orbiting a supergiant star. Measuring the motions of the two objects revealed that the black hole is about 16 times as massive as the Sun -- about half-again as heavy as the previous record holder.
The second black hole was discovered with the same techniques. It's also in another galaxy. This black hole is at least two dozen times as massive as the Sun.
The discoveries show that exploding stars can give birth to bigger black holes than expected. So it's just a matter of time until astronomers discover another record-breaker.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2007
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