Scientists just revealed the finding of the most massive black hole ever detected in the early Universe. It weighs 34 billion times as much as our Sun and eats one per day.
The research, headed by the National University of Australia (ANU), disclosed how large the Universe’s fastest-growing black hole is, as well as how much stuff it can absorb. The same study team detected the black hole, known as ‘J2157,’ in 2018.
The report revealing the huge black hole’s features was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
According to Dr. Christopher Onken and his colleagues, this object has a mass 34 billion times that of the Sun and consumes the equivalent of one Sun per day. That’s billion with a capital B. The gigantic black hole has a mass nearly 8,000 times that of Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy.
“If the Milky Way’s black hole wanted to get fat, it would have to swallow two-thirds of all the stars in our galaxy,” explains Onken.
The object was analyzed by scientists when the Universe was just 1.2 billion years old, or less than 10% of its present age, making it the largest known black hole in terms of mass in the early Universe.
“It is the largest black hole ever measured in this early period of the Universe,” says Onken.
The team is now on the search for more black holes in the hopes of discovering some answers as to how black holes grow to be so huge so early in the Universe’s infancy.
“We knew we were with a very massive black hole when we realized its rapid growth rate,” says team member Dr. Fuyan Bian, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO). “How much black holes can devour depends on how much mass they already have. For this object to be devouring matter at such a high rate, we thought it could become a new record holder. “And we now know,” he says.
The team, which included researchers from the University of Arizona, utilized the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile to accurately determine the mass of the black hole.
“With such an enormous black hole, we’re also excited to see what we can learn about the galaxy in which it’s growing,” Onken said. “Is this galaxy one of the behemoths of the early Universe, or did the black hole swallow up an extraordinary amount of its surroundings? We’ll have to keep digging to figure that out.”
J2157 is the name given to a huge black hole in the heart of a quasar galaxy. Observations with the similarly huge 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii and the 8-meter Very Large Telescope in Chile let astronomers understand more about the cosmic monster.
Astronomers were able to calculate the quasar’s distance as well as its total brightness. This allowed them to determine the black hole’s size and how much stuff from the disc it might swallow.
The black hole is enormous, measuring nearly 200 billion kilometers in diameter. It is so massive that if it were replaced by our Sun, it would engulf the whole solar system.
Reference(s): ANU | Hungriest of black holes among the most massive in the Universe
Research Paper | A thirty-four billion solar mass black hole in SMSS J2157–3602, the most luminous known quasar