Quasars emit more energy than any other object in the universe, yet are not much bigger than our solar system. Quasars are powered by giant black holes of up to ten billion (1010) times the mass of the sun. Their enormous luminosities are the result of frictional forces acting upon matter as it spirals toward the black hole, heating the gas until it glows. We also believe that black holes of one million to ten billion solar masses – dead quasars – are present at the centers of most galaxies, including our own. The mass of the central black hole appears to be closely related to other properties of its host galaxy, such as the total mass in stars, but the origin of this relation and the role that black holes play in the formation of galaxies are still mysteries.

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