This artist's impression shows the surroundings of a supermassive black hole, typical of that found at the heart of many galaxies. The black hole itself is surrounded by a brilliant accretion disc of very hot, infalling material and, further out, a dusty torus. There are also often high-speed jets of material ejected at the black hole's poles that can extend huge distances into space. L. Calçada/ESO hide caption

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L. Calçada/ESO

An artist's rendering of a black hole that's 2 billion times more massive than our sun. Streams of particles ejected from black holes like this one are thought to be the brightest objects in the universe. ESO/M. Kornmesser hide caption

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ESO/M. Kornmesser

Some Bizarre Black Holes Put On Light Shows

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The star-forming area Messier 17, also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula, is a vast region of gas, dust and hot young stars that lies in the heart of the Milky Way in the constellation of Sagittarius. ESO/INAF-VST/OmegaCAM hide caption

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ESO/INAF-VST/OmegaCAM

Lasers and mirrors are used to carefully measure shifts in space-time. To avoid contamination, protective clothing must be worn at all times. LIGO Lab/Caltech/MIT hide caption

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LIGO Lab/Caltech/MIT

How To Catch The Biggest Wave In The Universe

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The black holes were 14 and 8 times the mass of the sun. As they spiraled together, they sent out gravitational waves. LIGO/T. Pyle hide caption

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LIGO/T. Pyle

Gravitational Waves From Colliding Black Holes Shake Scientists' Detectors Again

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This computer-simulated image shows a supermassive black hole at the core of a galaxy. The cosmic monster's powerful gravity distorts space around it like the mirror in a fun house, smearing the light from nearby stars. NASA/ESA/D. Coe, J. Anderson and R. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute) hide caption

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NASA/ESA/D. Coe, J. Anderson and R. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Supermassive Black Holes May Be More Common Than Anyone Imagined

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An image from a simulation of two black holes merging. Courtesy of SXS Collaboration hide caption

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Courtesy of SXS Collaboration

Einstein, A Hunch And Decades Of Work: How Scientists Found Gravitational Waves

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A simulation shows gravitational waves coming from two black holes as they spiral in together. S. Ossokine , A. Buonanno (MPI for Gravitational Physics)/W. Benger (Airborne Hydro Mapping GmbH) hide caption

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S. Ossokine , A. Buonanno (MPI for Gravitational Physics)/W. Benger (Airborne Hydro Mapping GmbH)

In Milestone, Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves As Black Holes Collide

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A LIGO optics technician inspects one of LIGO's core optics by illuminating its surface with light. It is critical to LIGO's operation that there is no contamination on any of its optical surfaces. Matt Heintze/Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab hide caption

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Matt Heintze/Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes was single-minded about a lot of things, colleagues say. And also a very nice guy. Julian Wasser/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty hide caption

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Julian Wasser/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

Charles Townes, Laser Pioneer, Black Hole Discoverer, Dies At 99

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