Supermassive black holes, which likely reside at the centers of virtually all galaxies, are unimaginably dense, compact regions of space from which nothing — not even light — can escape. As such a black hole, weighing in at millions or billions of times the mass of the Sun, devours material, it is surrounded by a swirling disk of gas. When gas from this disk falls towards the black hole, it releases a tremendous amount of energy. This energy creates a brilliant and powerful galactic core called a quasar, whose light can greatly outshine its host galaxy.
Astronomers widely believe that the energy from quasars is responsible for limiting the growth of massive galaxies. Shortly after the launch of NASA ’s James Webb Space Telescope, scientists plan to study the effect of three carefully selected quasars on their host galaxies in a program called Q3D.
A supermassive black hole is very small compared to its host galaxy — it’s the equivalent of a penny in relation to the size of the entire Moon. Still, supermassive black holes have an immense influence on the galaxies they inhabit.