Black holes are regions of space-time where gravity rules: The gravitational pull of a black hole is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. They range in size from stellar-mass black holes, whose masses can run from five to 100 times that of the Sun, all the way to supermassive black holes, which can reach well over a billion solar masses. Astronomers now believe supermassive black holes hide within the heart of most galaxies. (A notable exception to this rule is M33, which, despite being the third largest member of our Local Group, appears to lack a central supermassive black hole.)
Right now, the universe is in its Stelliferous Era, when stars and galaxies are continuously being born. Eventually, the ingredients to make these objects will be used up, and the stars in the night sky slowly will wink out, leaving black holes as the universe’s only occupants.
But even the black holes will one day die. And when they do, these monsters won’t go gently into the night. A burst of fireworks will light up the universe in the final moments of each black hole, heralding the end of the era.
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