Richly illustrated with the images from observatories on the ground and in space, and computer simulations, this book shows how black holes were discovered, and discusses our current understanding of their role in cosmic evolution. This second edition covers new discoveries made in the past decade, including definitive proof of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way, evidence that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, and the new appreciation of the connection between black holes and galaxy formation. There are entirely new chapters on gamma-ray bursts and cosmic feedback. Begelman and Rees blend theoretical arguments with observational results to demonstrate how both approaches contributed to this subject. Clear illustrations and photographs reveal the strange and amazing workings of our universe. The engaging style makes this book suitable for introductory undergraduate courses, amateur astronomers, and all readers interested in astronomy and physics.