Astronomers have spotted a supermassive black hole, 3 billion times more massive than our Sun. This particular super massive black hole is located in a distant galaxy some 1.8 billion light-years away from Earth. The galaxy, this black is located in, is called IRAS 20100–4156, and it's formed from a trio of spiral galaxies that are currently in the middle of colliding into one another. The finding of the supermassive black hole at the center of this collision was actually came by accident, while performing a test observation of the CSIRO's new telescope – the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP).
Astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith was handling the telescope to normally measure the maser discharges coming from IRAS 20100–4156. She told Anna Salleh at the ABC "[I] thought it would be quite a mundane thing," But after examining the readings in combination with measurements from another CSIRO telescope – the Australia Telescope Compact Array – Harvey-Smith discovered that the gas inside the maser was travelling at very fast speeds.
Travelling nearly 600 kilometres per second about the centre of IRAS 20100–4156 – which was twice as fast as researchers would have anticipated – the speed of the gas hinted at a supermassive black hole developing right at the center of the galaxy.
Harvey-Smith told the ABC "The black hole at the centre of our galaxy is only 4 million solar masses, so this one is a monster in comparison. This very fast motion of the gas tells us about how massive the black hole is. The really exciting thing about this is it is a direct measurement of the mass of the black hole by stuff that's swirling around it."
According to the current theories, when galaxies collide like this and develop a supermassive black hole, it ultimately results in what's called a starburst, where stars form at an unusually high rate.
According to Harvey-Smith, this discovery of monster black holes and knowing its mass helps give us a better insight of how galaxies form throughout the Universe.
She told the ABC "We want to know whether galaxy collisions, and the formation of supermassive black holes, have really driven the star formation rates that we see in galaxies and how that's changed throughout time,"
The research paper has been accepted for proper issuance in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.