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SALT LAKE CITY — NASA has released a new photo showing an enormous black hole in a galaxy far, far away.
The galaxy, wonderfully named NGC 4889, is one of several in the Coma Cluster about 300 million light years away, officials said Thursday. The black hole at its heart is one of the largest ever discovered.
The supermassive black hole is 21 billion times the mass of the sun, NASA said in a written statement. Compare that to our own black hole in the Milky Way which is about 4 million times the mass of the sun.
Even though the black hole is giant, you can't see it in the photo because light can't escape a black hole's gravitational pull, according to NASA. Scientists were able to measure it by using the velocity of the stars moving around it, according to CNN.
Astronomers believe that the NGC 4889's black hole has stopped feeding and is currently resting. Scientists said that the environment within the galaxy is now so peaceful that stars are forming from its remaining gas and orbiting undisturbed around the black hole.
"Certainly, a collision with another galaxy can reactivate the black hole," Roeland van der Marel told CNN. van der Marel is a WFIRST mission head at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, where researchers work on the Hubble Space Telescope, among other missions.
"Black holes don't suck," van der Marel told CNN. "That's a common misconception. Material that happens to be moving in the direction of the black hole falls in because gas has friction that gets eaten [by the black hole]. Once the black hole has eaten all the gas there, it can just move on and it will be dormant until it gets another dose of material that it can consume."