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"Ultramassive black holes — that is, black holes with masses exceeding 10 billion solar masses — are probably not rare; several and even dozens of these colossal black holes may exist," study lead author Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo, an astrophysicist at Stanford University, told SPACE.com.
"Some of our black hole mass predictions are just lower limits, so they could be higher," Hlavacek-Larrondo said. "Just how big do I think they can get? I would bet that a least one 100-billion-solar-mass black hole exists among our objects, which really is ultra-big."
Oddly, these black holes are about 10 times larger than one would expect from the size of their host galaxies.
"These results may mean we don't really understand how the very biggest black holes coexist with their host galaxies," said study author Andrew Fabian of England's Cambridge University. "It looks like the behavior of these huge black holes has to differ from that of their less massive cousins in an important way."
The answer to this mystery may have to do with where these black holes were discovered. All of these potentially ultramassive black holes lie in galaxies at the centers of massive galaxy clusters containing huge amounts of hot gas. Black holes probably generate the outbursts of energy that keep this hot gas from cooling and forming huge numbers of stars, researchers say.