The fastest growing black hole in the last 9 billion years has been discovered by an international team led by astronomers from the ANU (Australian National University). The black hole consumes the equivalent of one Earth every second and shines 7,000 times brighter than all the light in our own galaxy, making it visible to well-equipped amateur astronomers.
Lead researcher Dr. Christopher Onken and his co-authors describe it as a “very large and unexpected needle in a haystack.” “Astronomers have been looking for objects like this for more than 50 years. They have found thousands of fainter objects, but this amazingly bright one went unnoticed,” Dr Onken said in a statement.
The black hole has the mass of 3 billion suns. Others of comparable size stopped growing as fast billions of years ago.
“Now we want to know why this one is different: did something catastrophic happen? Perhaps two large galaxies collided with each other, funneling a lot of material into the black hole to feed it,” said Dr Onken.
“THIS RECORD WILL NOT BE BROKEN”
Co-author Associate Professor Christian Wolf said: “This black hole is such an outlier that while you should never say never, I don’t think we’ll ever find another one like it. We’re pretty confident this record won’t be broken. Basically, we’ve left without a sky where objects like this could hide”.
The black hole has a visual magnitude of 14.5, a measure of how bright an object appears to an observer on Earth. This means that anyone with a decent telescope in a very dark backyard can see it comfortably. “It’s 500 times larger than the black hole in our own galaxy,” said co-author and ANU PhD researcher Samuel Lai.
“The orbits of the planets in our Solar System would all fit within their event horizon, the edge of the black hole from which nothing can escape.”