The uncertainties and mysteries about black holes have always been very present among the scientific community. These astronomical objects have such a strong gravitational pull that nothing, not even light, can escape.
As NASA explains, two main classes of black holes have been studied throughout history. Those of stellar mass, three to dozens of times the mass of the Sun, and the “supermassive monsters weighing between 100,000 to billions of solar masses, found at the centers of most large galaxies, including the our”.
Recently, a team of astronomers from the Australian National University (ANU) has discovered the “fastest growing” black hole in the last 9,000 million years. It is a surprising astronomical object that consumes “the equivalent of one Earth every second and shines 7,000 times more than all the light of our own galaxy.”
How is this black hole?
“Astronomers have been searching for objects like this for more than 50 years. They have found thousands of fainter objects, but this staggeringly bright one went unnoticed,” lead researcher Dr Christopher Onken and colleagues said in a statement issued by the university. co-authors describe it as a “very large and unexpected needle in the haystack”.
“Maybe two big galaxies collided, funneling a lot of material into the black hole to feed it.”
The black hole has the mass of 3 billion suns. And the most puzzling thing is that previously discovered black holes of similar size “stopped growing so fast billions of years ago.”
“Now we want to know why this one is different: did something catastrophic happen? Perhaps two large galaxies collided with each other, funneling a lot of material into the black hole to feed it,” adds the expert, whose research has been published on arXiv and sent to Australian Astronomical Society Publications.
Why is it so unusual?
“This black hole is so unusual that while you should never say never, I don’t think we’ll ever find another one like it,” says co-author Associate Professor Christian Wolf. “We’re pretty sure this record won’t be broken. Basically, we’ve run out of sky where objects like this could hide,” he adds.
“It’s 500 times bigger than the black hole in our own galaxy.”
The visual magnitude of this astronomical object is 14.5, “a measure of how bright it appears to an observer on Earth.” Therefore, anyone with an appropriate telescope and in an environment away from light pollution will be able to see it.
“It’s 500 times bigger than the black hole in our own galaxy,” adds co-author and PhD researcher Samuel Lai. “The orbits of the planets in our Solar System would all fit within their event horizon, the edge of the black hole from which nothing can escape,” he concludes.