Astronomers have found the most voracious black hole

Pat Wise
May 16, 2018

Australian astrophysicists have found in the constellation of the southern Fish record-a voracious supermassive black hole J2157-3602, which will be able to eat our Sun in just two days.

"Black holes at the centres of galaxies reach masses of over ten billion times that of our sun", the researchers write in their paper.

In this case, the researchers discovered the black hole which, according to their estimates, was as big as 20 billion suns and growing by a percent every one million years.

Astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU) have made an astounding discovery.

Initially the SkyMapper telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory discovered light from the black hole in the "near-infrared".

'If we had this monster sitting at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon.

The supermassive black hole is so powerful, that if it were at the centre of the Milky Way, all life on earth would be impossible.

"These large and rapidly growing black holes are exceedingly rare, and we have been searching for them with SkyMapper for several months now", Wolf said, crediting the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite for its legwork.

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Dubbed J215728.21-360215.1, the supermassive black hole was recently noticed by the before-mentioned Dr. Wolf and his colleagues.

The supermassive black hole, also known as a quasar, is very ancient. Wolf further added that it would have appeared as an unbelievably bright "pin-point star", which could wash out almost every star present in the celestial sphere.

Dr Wolf said one benefit from finding black holes is they act as backlighting to everything else out in the cosmos, making it easier to see.

Such black holes can be used as "beacons" to measure the expansion of the universe, and the early formation of the elements in the most ancient galaxies, said the scientists. Previously, astronomers had already found black holes much heavier than they should be due to their age. "It is very far away", he says.

"We don't know how this one grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the Universe", Dr Wolf said.

That's a puzzle for scientists, who don't understand how quasars grew so big, so early in the history of the universe. "The hunt is on to find even faster-growing black holes", Wolf said.

The new work was accepted to the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

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