Insight |

Black Holes

Black holes were theoretically established in 1915, shortly after Albert Einstein published his theory of General Relativity. Since then, observations have confirmed black holes as actual astrophysical objects. In this Insight we publish ten long- and short-format pieces (in the “Reviews & Perspectives” and “Views & Comments” tabs, respectively) discussing key aspects of black holes, from their masses, to their spins, to the ways in which they impact their surroundings and are studied. This collection also showcases some of the black hole-related content that Nature Astronomy has published since our launch (in the “Primary research” and “Further reading” tabs). Also, please view our previous collection of landmark black hole discoveries published in Nature and other Springer Nature journals.

Reviews & Perspectives

  • Nature Astronomy | Review Article

    Current black hole spin measurements, in X-rays, radio and gravitational waves, are already constraining models for the growth of black holes, the dynamics of stellar core-collapse and the physics of relativistic jet production.

    • Christopher S. Reynolds
  • Nature Astronomy | Review Article

    Supermassive black holes are fed through galaxy interactions and mergers, chaotic cold accretion in galaxy clusters and secular processes that may include stellar bars. Observations constraining these mechanisms at different scales are reviewed.

    • Thaisa Storchi-Bergmann
    •  &  Allan Schnorr-Müller
  • Nature Astronomy | Perspective

    KAGRA is a new gravitational wave detector being built in Japan. Unlike LIGO/Virgo, it will operate at cryogenic temperatures with sapphire mirrors. KAGRA will help improve the localization of gravitational wave detections and determination of the source parameters.

    • T. Akutsu
    • , M. Ando
    • , K. Arai
    • , Y. Arai
    • , S. Araki
    • , A. Araya
    • , N. Aritomi
    • , H. Asada
    • , Y. Aso
    • , S. Atsuta
    • , K. Awai
    • , S. Bae
    • , L. Baiotti
    • , M. A. Barton
    • , K. Cannon
    • , E. Capocasa
    • , C-S. Chen
    • , T-W. Chiu
    • , K. Cho
    • , Y-K. Chu
    • , K. Craig
    • , W. Creus
    • , K. Doi
    • , K. Eda
    • , Y. Enomoto
    • , R. Flaminio
    • , Y. Fujii
    • , M.-K. Fujimoto
    • , M. Fukunaga
    • , M. Fukushima
    • , T. Furuhata
    • , S. Haino
    • , K. Hasegawa
    • , K. Hashino
    • , K. Hayama
    • , S. Hirobayashi
    • , E. Hirose
    • , B. H. Hsieh
    • , C-Z. Huang
    • , B. Ikenoue
    • , Y. Inoue
    • , K. Ioka
    • , Y. Itoh
    • , K. Izumi
    • , T. Kaji
    • , T. Kajita
    • , M. Kakizaki
    • , M. Kamiizumi
    • , S. Kanbara
    • , N. Kanda
    • , S. Kanemura
    • , M. Kaneyama
    • , G. Kang
    • , J. Kasuya
    • , Y. Kataoka
    • , N. Kawai
    • , S. Kawamura
    • , T. Kawasaki
    • , C. Kim
    • , J. Kim
    • , J. C. Kim
    • , W. S. Kim
    • , Y.-M. Kim
    • , N. Kimura
    • , T. Kinugawa
    • , S. Kirii
    • , Y. Kitaoka
    • , H. Kitazawa
    • , Y. Kojima
    • , K. Kokeyama
    • , K. Komori
    • , A. K. H. Kong
    • , K. Kotake
    • , R. Kozu
    • , R. Kumar
    • , H-S. Kuo
    • , S. Kuroyanagi
    • , H. K. Lee
    • , H. M. Lee
    • , H. W. Lee
    • , M. Leonardi
    • , C-Y. Lin
    • , F-L. Lin
    • , G. C. Liu
    • , Y. Liu
    • , E. Majorana
    • , S. Mano
    • , M. Marchio
    • , T. Matsui
    • , F. Matsushima
    • , Y. Michimura
    • , N. Mio
    • , O. Miyakawa
    • , A. Miyamoto
    • , T. Miyamoto
    • , K. Miyo
    • , S. Miyoki
    • , W. Morii
    • , S. Morisaki
    • , Y. Moriwaki
    • , T. Morozumi
    • , M. Musha
    • , K. Nagano
    • , S. Nagano
    • , K. Nakamura
    • , T. Nakamura
    • , H. Nakano
    • , M. Nakano
    • , K. Nakao
    • , T. Narikawa
    • , L. Naticchioni
    • , L. Nguyen Quynh
    • , W.-T. Ni
    • , A. Nishizawa
    • , Y. Obuchi
    • , T. Ochi
    • , J. J. Oh
    • , S. H. Oh
    • , M. Ohashi
    • , N. Ohishi
    • , M. Ohkawa
    • , K. Okutomi
    • , K. Ono
    • , K. Oohara
    • , C. P. Ooi
    • , S-S. Pan
    • , J. Park
    • , F. E. Peña Arellano
    • , I. Pinto
    • , N. Sago
    • , M. Saijo
    • , S. Saitou
    • , Y. Saito
    • , K. Sakai
    • , Y. Sakai
    • , Y. Sakai
    • , M. Sasai
    • , M. Sasaki
    • , Y. Sasaki
    • , S. Sato
    • , N. Sato
    • , T. Sato
    • , Y. Sekiguchi
    • , N. Seto
    • , M. Shibata
    • , T. Shimoda
    • , H. Shinkai
    • , T. Shishido
    • , A. Shoda
    • , K. Somiya
    • , E. J. Son
    • , A. Suemasa
    • , T. Suzuki
    • , T. Suzuki
    • , H. Tagoshi
    • , H. Tahara
    • , H. Takahashi
    • , R. Takahashi
    • , A. Takamori
    • , H. Takeda
    • , H. Tanaka
    • , K. Tanaka
    • , T. Tanaka
    • , S. Tanioka
    • , E. N. Tapia San Martin
    • , D. Tatsumi
    • , T. Tomaru
    • , T. Tomura
    • , F. Travasso
    • , K. Tsubono
    • , S. Tsuchida
    • , N. Uchikata
    • , T. Uchiyama
    • , T. Uehara
    • , S. Ueki
    • , K. Ueno
    • , F. Uraguchi
    • , T. Ushiba
    • , M. H. P. M. van Putten
    • , H. Vocca
    • , S. Wada
    • , T. Wakamatsu
    • , Y. Watanabe
    • , W-R. Xu
    • , T. Yamada
    • , A. Yamamoto
    • , K. Yamamoto
    • , K. Yamamoto
    • , S. Yamamoto
    • , T. Yamamoto
    • , K. Yokogawa
    • , J. Yokoyama
    • , T. Yokozawa
    • , T. H. Yoon
    • , T. Yoshioka
    • , H. Yuzurihara
    • , S. Zeidler
    •  &  Z.-H. Zhu
  • Nature Astronomy | Perspective

    Examining and comparing many of the definitions of a black hole, it is concluded that the profusion of different definitions is a virtue that makes the investigation of black holes possible and fruitful in many different kinds of problems.

    • Erik Curiel

Views & Comment

  • Nature Astronomy | Editorial

    Black holes have the distinct honour of being the most popular and potentially the least well-understood objects in the Universe. This issue’s Insight explores how far black hole research has come since its inception, though it still has a long way to go.

  • Nature Astronomy | Q&A

    Mitchell C. Begelman, Professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and a black hole expert, discusses the start of the field with Nature Astronomy.

    • Marios Karouzos
  • Nature Astronomy | Comment

    Intermediate-mass black holes (BHs) in local dwarf galaxies are considered the relics of the early seed BHs. However, their growth might have been impacted by galaxy mergers and BH feedback so that they cannot be treated as tracers of the early seed BH population.

    • Mar Mezcua
  • Nature Astronomy | Comment

    The masses of supermassive black holes, key to many cosmological studies, are highly uncertain beyond our local Universe. The main challenge is to establish the spatial and kinematic structure of the broad-line emitting gas in active galactic nuclei.

    • Marianne Vestergaard
  • Nature Astronomy | Comment

    The detection of a gravitational-wave background at nanohertz frequencies can tell us if and how supermassive black holes merge, and inform our knowledge of galaxy merger rates and supermassive black hole masses. All we have to do is time pulsars.

    • Chiara M. F. Mingarelli

Primary Research

  • Nature Astronomy | Article

    The James Webb Space Telescope may detect and distinguish a young galaxy that hosts a direct-collapse black hole and nearby massive metal-free star formation at redshift 15 with as little as a 20,000-second total exposure time across four filters.

    • Kirk S. S. Barrow
    • , Aycin Aykutalp
    •  &  John H. Wise
  • Nature Astronomy | Article

    We calculate the continuous nanohertz gravitational-wave emission from individual supermassive black hole binaries and the gravitational-wave background they generate, which will be observable with pulsar timing arrays.

    • Chiara M. F. Mingarelli
    • , T. Joseph W. Lazio
    • , Alberto Sesana
    • , Jenny E. Greene
    • , Justin A. Ellis
    • , Chung-Pei Ma
    • , Steve Croft
    • , Sarah Burke-Spolaor
    •  &  Stephen R. Taylor
  • Nature Astronomy | Article

    A candidate dual supermassive black hole system with a projected separation of 0.35 pc is found in the gas-rich interacting spiral galaxy NGC 7674, evidenced by a 0.7 kpc Z-shaped radio jet and two, possibly inverted-spectrum, compact radio cores.

    • P. Kharb
    • , D. V. Lal
    •  &  D. Merritt
  • Nature Astronomy | Letter

    The X-ray polarization properties of the black hole binary Cygnus X-1 in its hard state, combined with spectral and timing data, reveals that the accretion disk corona is either an extended structure or located far from the black hole.

    • M. Chauvin
    • , H.-G. Florén
    • , M. Friis
    • , M. Jackson
    • , T. Kamae
    • , J. Kataoka
    • , T. Kawano
    • , M. Kiss
    • , V. Mikhalev
    • , T. Mizuno
    • , N. Ohashi
    • , T. Stana
    • , H. Tajima
    • , H. Takahashi
    • , N. Uchida
    •  &  M. Pearce
  • Nature Astronomy | Letter

    A bright X-ray outburst from a massive star cluster 12.5 kpc from a galactic centre fits the profile of a tidal disruption event (TDE), indicating the likely presence of an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH). TDEs could be the most effective way of identifying IMBHs.

    • Dacheng Lin
    • , Jay Strader
    • , Eleazar R. Carrasco
    • , Dany Page
    • , Aaron J. Romanowsky
    • , Jeroen Homan
    • , Jimmy A. Irwin
    • , Ronald A. Remillard
    • , Olivier Godet
    • , Natalie A. Webb
    • , Holger Baumgardt
    • , Rudy Wijnands
    • , Didier Barret
    • , Pierre-Alain Duc
    • , Jean P. Brodie
    •  &  Stephen D. J. Gwyn
  • Nature Astronomy | Letter

    The authors predict the ability of the Event Horizon Telescope (in its 2017 campaign) to distinguish between different theories of gravity based on images of Sagittarius A*; they suggest that it will not be possible.

    • Yosuke Mizuno
    • , Ziri Younsi
    • , Christian M. Fromm
    • , Oliver Porth
    • , Mariafelicia De Laurentis
    • , Hector Olivares
    • , Heino Falcke
    • , Michael Kramer
    •  &  Luciano Rezzolla

Further Reading

  • Nature Astronomy | Comment

    Arguably, no mission changed X-ray astronomy in as short a time as did Hitomi. The planned X-ray Astronomy Recovery Mission, XARM, will carry its legacy forward.

    • Poshak Gandhi
  • Nature Astronomy | Perspective

    Black holes and spacetime singularities are fundamental in science. While observational proof for black holes is hard to come by, alternatives can be ruled out or confirmed to exist through precision gravitational wave observations.

    • Vitor Cardoso
    •  &  Paolo Pani
  • Nature Astronomy | Review Article

    The material surrounding accreting supermassive black holes connects them with their hosts. From studies in the infrared and X-rays, the structure of this material is found to be complex, clumpy and dynamic.

    • Cristina Ramos Almeida
    •  &  Claudio Ricci
  • Nature Astronomy | Review Article

    Quantifying the effect of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) on their hosts requires knowledge of their life cycle. This review on AGN archaeology summarizes the main recent findings regarding the AGN life cycle from optical and radio observations.

    • Raffaella Morganti
  • Nature Astronomy | Review Article

    Feedback from actively accreting supermassive black holes is thought to be important in the evolution of galaxies. Theoretical and observational results are reviewed with regard to the impact of this feedback on star formation in galaxies.

    • C. M. Harrison