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About a Supermassive Black Hole

A supermassive black hole (SMBH or sometimes SBH) is the largest type of black hole, containing a mass of the order of hundreds of thousands, to billions times, the mass of the Sun. This is a class of astronomical objects that has undergone gravitational collapse, leaving behind a spheroidal region of space from which nothing can escape; not even light. Observational evidence indicates that all, or nearly all, massive galaxies contain a supermassive black hole, located at the galaxy's center. In the case of the Milky Way, the supermassive black hole corresponds to the location of Sagittarius A* at the Galactic Core. Accretion of interstellar gas onto supermassive black holes is the process responsible for powering quasars and other types of active galactic nuclei.

Supermassive black holes have properties that distinguish them from lower-mass classifications. First, the average density of a SMBH (defined as the mass of the black hole divided by the volume within its Schwarzschild radius) can be less than the density of water in the case of some SMBHs. This is because the Schwarzschild radius is directly proportional to its mass. Since the volume of a spherical object (such as the event horizon of a non-rotating black hole) is directly proportional to the cube of the radius, the density of a black hole is inversely proportional to the square of the mass, and thus higher mass black holes have lower average density. In addition, the tidal forces in the vicinity of the event horizon are significantly weaker for supermassive black holes. The tidal force on a body at the event horizon is likewise inversely proportional to the square of the mass: a person on the surface of the Earth and one at the event horizon of a 10 million M☉ black hole experience about the same tidal force between their head and feet. Unlike with stellar mass black holes, one would not experience significant tidal force until very deep into the black hole.

Some astronomers have begun labeling black holes of at least 10 billion M☉ as ultramassive black holes. Most of these (such as TON 618) are associated with exceptionally energetic quasars.


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