Meet The Overly Powerful Black Hole RX J1532

Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes to reveal one of the most powerful black holes known. The supermassive black hole is in the center of a galaxy cluster named RX J1532.9+3021 located about 3.9 billion light years from Earth. The image here is a composite of X-ray data from Chandra revealing hot gas in the cluster in purple and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope showing galaxies in yellow. Supersonic jets generated by the black hole have drilled into the hot gas and pushed it aside, forming the large cavities that can be seen on either side of the central galaxy (mouse over the image for a labeled version).

I’ve been asked a few times about powerful supermassive black holes, and one of my old articles has suddenly become popular again, getting a thousand views in June, so I think we are in a new zeitgeist of black hole interests.

So, I’ve prepared a little video about an extremely powerful object known as RX J1532.9+3021, RX J1532 for short, the incredible supermassive black hole. Some quick facts about it:

  • It is located 3.9 billion light years from Earth
  • It has a mass of 10 billion times the mass of the Sun
  • It emits 2.2×1038 Watts, about 100,000 times the emission of the Milky Way

The luminosity is a big part of what makes it so intriguing. The luminosity comes from the heated gas falling into the black holes, getting so compressed by the gravitational pull of the compact object that it begins to emit x-rays. And this, in turn, is heating up the gas which surrounds it to millions of degrees, and the magnetic fields propell two large and powerful jets of material out and away from the black hole.

The Jets have also contributed to creating sonic shocks in the rest of the gas distribution, which has also helped heat up the gas, literally choking the star formation in this galaxy.

It’s not an understatement to say that this object is one of the most powerful supermassive black holes in the universe.


Hlavacek-Larrondo, J. et al. The Astrophysical Journal November 10, 2013 – Paper.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Stanford/J.Hlavacek-Larrondo et al, Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/M.Postman & CLASH team


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