Astronomers have just spotted one of the biggest black holes ever discovered. What’s even more surprising is its location—and also the strange reason it got so big. The recently discovered supermassive black hole tips the scales at more than 17 billion times the size of sun, making it one of the biggest ever discovered. Supermassive black holes, even of this size, are not completely strange—the biggest ever spotted is slightly bigger at 21 billion times the size of our sun.
Simulation of the newly discovered supermassive black holegenerated by supercomputer. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (STScI)
Generally, black holes this big can be found at the center of a massive galaxy cluster. But this supermassive black hole, was discovered in a modestly-sized elliptical galaxy, with only a few surrounding galaxies nearby. It’s a discovery so rare that astronomer Chung-Pei Ma of the University of California-Berkeley equated it to finding a single skyscraper surrounded by cornfields.
As this is a very unlikely scenario, so astronomers are coming up with a new theory that might explain not only the black hole’s size but also how it exist in its current:
This supermassive black hole is essentially two black holes, which united long, long ago when some two galaxies bumped into each other. Ultimately, the boundaries of the two black holes were distorted so much by each other that they combined into one extremely large supermassive black hole, the full simulation of which you can see is pictured above.