Scientists have recently made an astounding discovery – they have found the biggest black hole ever seen in the early Universe, which is capable of devouring our Sun every day. Led by the National University of Australia (ANU), the research highlights the black hole’s gargantuan size and how much matter it can hold. In 2018, the same team of scientists discovered the massive black hole called “J2157.”
The study’s results were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, revealing that the black hole is 34 billion times more massive than the Sun and consumes an equivalent amount of energy every day. Dr. Christopher Onken and his team found that the black hole is 8,000 times more massive than Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the Milky Way galaxy’s center.
“If the black hole in the Milky Way wanted to get fat, it would have to eat two-thirds of all the stars in our galaxy,” said Onken.
The scientists observed the massive black hole when the Universe was only 1.2 billion years old, making it the most significant black hole ever discovered in the early Universe in terms of mass. Onken noted, “It is the biggest black hole ever measured in the early universe.”
The team is currently searching for more black holes to gain a better understanding of how these enormous entities can grow so fast in the young Universe.
“When we saw how quickly it was growing, we knew it was a very big black hole,” said Dr. Fuyan Bian, an astronomer from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and part of the research team. “The amount of matter a black hole can eat depends on how much mass it already has. We thought this object might set a new record for how fast it ate matter because it did it so quickly. And now we know.”
Using the 8-meter Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the ESO in Chile, the team, which included researchers from the University of Arizona, accurately determined the black hole’s mass. They hope to learn more about the galaxy in which the enormous black hole is located and whether it is one of the behemoths of the early Universe or the black hole swallowed an extraordinary amount of its surroundings.
The monster black hole at the center of a quasar galaxy is called J2157. With the help of the 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii and the 8-meter Very Large Telescope in Chile, astronomers were able to learn more about it. They calculated the quasar’s distance and brightness, which helped them determine the black hole’s size and how much of the disc it could consume.
The black hole’s immense size, measuring almost 200 billion kilometers in diameter, is a staggering discovery. If it were the size of our Sun, it would consume everything in our solar system. Astronomers will continue to investigate black holes and quasars to uncover the mysteries of the Universe.