What you can't see in this photo? Galaxy 4889’s massive black hole.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

A black hole had been "feasting" on its region's "cosmic cuisine" (NASA's words, not mine). This is what that insatiable black hole looks like.


Yes, that's just a black box. Because black holes are invisible, remember? (OK, I'll cut it out.)

This particular black hole — which is no longer dining on space matter and is instead resting comfortably in a food coma — is seriously enormous ... even by huge things in space standards.

This supermassive black hole in galaxy NGC 4889 is one of the largest NASA has ever discovered.

NASA originally spotted the black hole — which is a whopping 21 billion times the mass of our sun— in 2011.

The Hubble Space Telescope, however, just released an image of NGC 4889 hanging out roughly 300 million light-years away — the brightest dot in the center of the pic below. And even though you can't see the actual black hole within in (remember: invisible), the image is bringing a renewed interest in the galaxy's gargantuan gravitational center.

Photo by NASA & ESA.

To put this black hole's mass into perspective, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way (the galaxy we're spinning around in this very moment) has a mass about 4 million times our sun's. That's right — NGC 4889's black hole has a mass more than 5,000 times greater than our galaxy's black hole.

How do we know for sure how big it is if we can't see it? A very smart person who knows a lot about space noted on Hubble's website that astronomers can estimate the mass of black holes by measuring the velocity of stars moving around a galaxy's center — sort of like how you can't see the wind, but you can tell how hard it's blowing by seeing its effects on Donald Trump's hair.

Learning about this huge black hole made me realize two things: 1. I am terrified of black holes, and 2. I know very little about them.

So I decided to do some digging. And let me tell you — black holes are fascinating. Here are three facts that blew me away (or sucked me in?).

1. The tiniest black holes can be about the size of an atom ... but can have the mass of a f***ing mountain.

Black holes are like people — they come in all sizes.

An artist illustration of a quasar, or feeding black hole, eating up the space matter surrounding it. Image by NASA/ESAvia Getty Images.

There are three different kinds of black holes, mass-wise: primordial, stellar, and supermassive. The latter is the largest, with masses greater than 1 million of our suns. Evidence suggests they're at the center of every large galaxy.

Stellars (the Average Joes of black holes, if you will) are everywhere, relatively speaking — there could even be dozens floating around our very own Milky Way. These form after very big stars collapse, and they have masses up to 20 times greater than our sun.

Primordial black holes — the little guys of the group that formed in the early universe — can be as small as an atom but have the mass of a mountain. (Because science.)

2. Black holes are terrifying, but no — we shouldn't fear getting sucked into one.

Despite how bewilderingly scary the thought of one can be — their very definition hinges on the fact their gravity is so strong that not even light can escape — there are no black holes large enough to threaten Earth's existence anywhere nearby.

And as NASA points out, "black holes do not wander around the universe, randomly swallowing worlds." (Thank God.)

Bright flares are seen near Sagittarius A* — the black hole in the center of our own Milky Way galaxy — in 2003. Photo by NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K.Baganoff/Getty Images.

We should maybe focus on more reasonable threats facing our very existence as a species, like, say, climate change? (Just a thought.)

3. Black holes can collide. And we just learned that we can hear it happening — even a billion light-years away.

It turns out, Alert Einstein was right this whole time.

Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Just this month, scientists from across the globe published a report that helps prove the last leg of Einstein's theory of relatively, which had to do with gravitational waves — "the ripples in the fabric of space-time," as The New York Times defined them (try wrapping your head around that).

Back in September 2015, scientists at the LIGO Scientific Collaboration detected a "chirp" using their antennas in Washington state and Louisiana. That chirp was the stretching and compressing of space — gravitational waves hitting Earth's surface.

So what do these waves have to do with black holes? Well, black holes created them.

Two stellar black holes had merged about a billion light-years away. This sent gravitational waves throughout the universe, distorting space-time as they rippled through. So, yes — two black holes that fused in one-fifth of an Earth second a billion years ago led to what could be "one of the major breakthroughs" in modern physics on Earth in 2016.


Do you feel like a black hole expert now?

OK, so maybe not an expert, but at least a little smarter when it comes to space stuff?

Black holes can be super-small and supermassive. They're completely horrifying by default but actually pose no real threat. And, as of just this month, they helped back up the most questionable aspect of Einstein's theory of relatively.

Bottom line: Black holes are a lot of things, starting with insanely cool.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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