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Astronomers have discovered the brightest and fastest growing black hole of the past 9 billion years. The huge cosmic entity is 3 billion times more massive than the Sun and swallows a Soil-big chunk of matter every second.
The new supermassive black hole, known as J1144, is about 500 times larger than Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Waywho was recently photographed for the first time† A ring of super-hot plasma surrounding the vast void also radiates about 7,000 times more light than our entire galaxy.
Australian astronomers discovered the cosmic juggernaut using data from the Australian National University’s SkyMapper Southern Sky Survey, which aims to map the entire sky in the Southern Hemisphere. Locating the supermassive black hole was like finding a “very large, unexpected needle in a haystack,” the researchers said in a statement (opens in new tab)†
“Astronomers have been hunting for these types of objects for more than 50 years,” lead researcher Christopher Onken, an astronomer at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, said in the statement. “They found thousands of fainter ones, but this astonishingly bright one slipped through unnoticed.”
The black hole’s voracious appetite is smaller than that of other similar massive supermassive black holes. Normally, the growth rates of these massive cosmic entities slow as they become more massive, according to the statement. This is likely due to increased Hawking radiation – thermal radiation believed to be released from black holes due to the effects of quantum mechanics†
The newly discovered black hole eats up so much matter that its event horizon — the boundary from which nothing, including light, can escape — is unusually wide. “The orbits of the planets in our solar system would all fit within its event horizon,” study co-author Samuel Lai, an ANU astronomer, said in the statement.
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Black holes cannot be seen because they do not emit light. But astronomers can see black holes because their intense gravity pulls matter to the event horizon so fast that it turns into superhot plasma; this gives off light in a ring around the black hole, an accretion disk. The accretion disk of the newly discovered behemoth is the brightest astronomers have ever detected, due to its massive event horizon and the extreme speed at which it pulls matter towards it. Researchers are “reasonably confident” that this is a record that will never be broken, the statement said.
The black hole’s boundary is so bright that even amateur astronomers could see it with a powerful enough telescope trained on just the right part of the sky, the researchers said.
The team is now trying to figure out why the massive black hole remains so unusually hungry for matter. The scientists suspect that a catastrophic cosmic event must be responsible for the birth of this gigantic void. “Maybe two large galaxies collided, funneling a lot of material onto the black hole to feed it,” Onken said.
However, it can be difficult to figure out exactly how it came to be. The researchers are skeptical that we’ll ever find a similarly massive and rapidly expanding black hole, making it difficult to test a general theory about the formation of such voracious cosmic objects.
“This black hole is such an outlier that while you should never say never, I don’t believe we’ll find another like it,” study co-author Christian Wolf, an ANU astronomer and SkyMapper group leader, said in the statement. . “We essentially run out of air where these kinds of objects could hide.”
However, some researchers predict that as many as 40 trillion black holes in the universethat could make up about 1% of all matter in the Universe, so the chances of an even more voracious black hole out there somewhere is not zero.
The research was submitted to the preprint databaser on June 8th arXiv but has not yet been peer-reviewed. If accepted, it will be published in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.
Originally published on Live Science.
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