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Astronomers have discovered the brightest and fastest growing black hole to have existed in the last 9 billion years. The enormous cosmic entity is 3 billion times more massive than that Sun and swallows Earth-big chunk of matter every second.
The new supermassive black hole, known as J1144, is about 500 times the size of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Waythat was recently photographed for the first time. A ring of super-hot plasma around the vast void also emits about 7,000 times more bright than our entire galaxy.
Australian astronomers spotted 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 looking for a “very large, unexpected needle in a haystack,” according to the researchers said in a statement (opens in new tab).
“Astronomers have been searching for objects like this for more than 50 years,” said lead researcher Christopher Onken, an astronomer at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, in the statement. “They found thousands of fainter ones, but this amazingly bright one slipped through unnoticed.”
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The black hole’s voracious appetite dwarfs that of other similarly huge supermassive black holes. Normally, the growth rates of these enormous cosmic entities slow as they become more massive, the statement said. This is likely due to increased Hawking radiation – thermal radiation thought to be released due to the impact of black holes quantum mechanics.
The newly discovered black hole is gorging on so much matter that its event horizon — the limit beyond which nothing, including light, can escape — is unusually wide. “The orbits of the planets in ours solar system everything would fit within its event horizon,” said co-author Samuel Lai, an ANU astronomer, in the statement.
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Black holes cannot be seen because they do not emit light. But astronomers can detect black holes because of their intensity heaviness pulls matter toward the event horizon so fast that it turns that matter into super-hot plasma; This emits light in a ring around the black hole called the accretion disk. The accretion disk of the newfound behemoth is the brightest astronomers have ever discovered, due to its massive event horizon and the extreme speed at which it pulls in matter. The researchers are “fairly 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 pointed at 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 creation of this gigantic void. “Maybe two large galaxies collided and threw a whole lot of material at the black hole to feed it,” Onken said.
However, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how it came about. Researchers are skeptical that we’ll ever find a similarly massive and rapidly expanding black hole again, making it difficult to test a general theory about how such insatiable cosmic objects formed.
“This black hole is such an outlier that while one should never say never, I don’t think we’ll find one again,” said co-author Christian Wolf, an ANU astronomer and SkyMapper group leader, in the statement . “We’ve essentially run out of skies for objects like this to hide in.”
However, some researchers assume that there are as many as 40 trillion black holes in the universewhich could make up about 1% of all matter in the universe, so the likelihood of there being an even wilder black hole out there somewhere is not zero.
The study was submitted to the Preprint Databaser on June 8th arXiv but has not yet been evaluated. If accepted, it will be published in the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.
Originally published on Live Science.