Scientists discover a rapidly growing black hole

Dr. Christopher Onken and PhD candidate Samuel Lai. Credit: Jaime Kidston/ANU

The fastest growing black hole in the past 9 billion years has been discovered by an international team led by astronomers from the Australian National University (ANU).

The black hole consumes one Earth’s worth every second and shines 7,000 times brighter than all the light in our own galaxy, making it visible to well-equipped astronomers.

Lead researcher Dr Christopher Onken and his co-authors describe it as a “very big, unexpected needle in the haystack”.

“Astronomers have been looking for objects like this for more than 50 years. They’ve found thousands of fainter ones, but this surprisingly bright one has gone unnoticed,” Dr Onken said.

The black hole has the mass of three billion suns. Others of comparable size stopped growing as quickly billions of years ago.

“Now we want to know why this one is different – did something catastrophic happen? Maybe two large galaxies crashed together funneling a lot of matter into the black hole to feed it,” said said Dr. Onken.

Associate Professor Christian Wolf, co-author, said: “This black hole is so outlier that while never say never, I don’t believe we’ll find another one like this.

“We’re pretty confident that this record won’t be broken. We have virtually no skies left where objects like this could be hiding.”

The black hole has a visual magnitude of 14.5, a measure of an object’s brightness to an observer on Earth.

This means 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,” co-author and ANU Ph.D. said researcher Samuel Lai.

“The orbits of the planets in our solar system would all fit inside its event horizon, the black hole boundary from which nothing can escape.”

The discovery was made as part of the SkyMapper project.

The research was published on the arXiv preprint server and submitted to Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.


The hungriest of the most massive black holes in the universe


More information:
Christopher A. Onken et al, Discovery of the most luminous quasar of the last 9 Gyr. arXiv:2206.04204v1 [astro-ph.GA]arxiv.org/abs/2206.04204

Provided by Australian National University

Quote: Scientists Discover Rapidly Growing Black Hole (Jun 15, 2022) Retrieved June 16, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-scientists-rapidly-black-hole.html

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