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Jun 13, 2013 11:12 AM EDT

Astronomers Discover 26 New Black Holes at Andromeda's Center


The universe past our own Milky Way galaxy continues to get bigger and bigger.

According to Space.com, astronomers have discovered 26 new black holes in the Andromeda galaxy, which neighbors Earth's Milky Way galaxy. Black holes are hard to spot because they do not emit much light themselves, but can usually be seen by the light shone on them from surroundings.

The 26 new candidates add to Andromeda's nine, pushing its total black hole count to 35. The group of 26 is the largest trove discovered at one time in a galaxy other than the Milky Way.

"While we are excited to find so many black holes in Andromeda, we think it's just the tip of the iceberg," Robin Barnard, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., said in a statement. "Most black holes won't have close companions and will be invisible to us."

Black holes are the result of the death of giant stars and most of the newly discovered ones are believed to have five to ten times the mass of our sun. The black holes also appear to be within 1,000 light years of the center of the Andromeda galaxy, which is more than the amount of black holes near the Milky Way's center.

"When it comes to finding black holes in the central region of a galaxy, it is indeed the case where bigger is better," Stephen Murray of Johns Hopkins University and the Center for Astrophysics said in a statement. "In the case of Andromeda, we have a bigger bulge and a bigger supermassive black hole than in the Milky Way, so we expect more smaller black holes are made there as well."

Scientists expect more black holes because the group of stars at the center of Andromeda (also known as its bulge) is larger than the Milky Way's.

"We are particularly excited to see so many black hole candidates this close to the center, because we expected to see them and have been searching for years," Barnard said.

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