Astronomers have located the fastest growing black hole ever discovered – a massive monster that is capable of engulfing matter as large as the sun every two days.
To give a sense of scale, the fastest growing black hole is around the size of 20 billion stars – continuing to grow at a rate of 1% per 1 million years. That might not seem like a very speedy growth, but in terms of the expansion of black holes it’s pretty insane.
The fastest growing black hole also emits light that is a thousand times brighter than an entire galaxy – largely due to the heat and friction caused by the gases that it absorbs.
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“If we had this monster sitting at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon. It would appear as an incredibly bright pin-point star that would almost wash out all of the stars in the sky,” said Dr. Christian Wolf, from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University in Canberra.
The energy coming from the fastest growing black hole is mostly ultraviolet light and radiated x-rays, and experts have stated that if the hole were to exist in the Milky Way galaxy life would be impossible on Earth.
The study detailing the fastest growing black hole was published back on May 11 in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.
Detecting the fastest growing black hole was a bit of an ordeal, and Wolf’s team managed to discover it while they were searching using the SkyMapper telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran, New South Wales. The light that was detected by the SkyMapper has also been confirmed by the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.
“While objects of this luminosity are exceedingly rare in the Universe, they are particularly valuable as bright background and reference sources in order to study the properties of intervening matter along the line-of-sight, and for directly probing the expansion of our Universe with new instruments in the coming decades,” the authors reported.
At this point, Wolf and his team are unsure about what exactly led to the creation of the fastest growing black hole during the early days of the universe, but they will be taking steps to discover more just like it in the coming months.
A black hole is essentially an intense gravitational pull that sucks in everything in its path – including light. When gas and dust enter the void, the matter is massively accelerated and heated at very high temperature – giving us the incredible burst of light we’re seeing with the fastest growing black hole.
Scientists believe that the group of primordial black holes, which the fastest growing black hole is a part of, formed right after the big band while stellar black hole – another classification – formed when a massive star collapses upon itself.
Supermassive black holes, like the fastest growing black hole that was just recently discovered, were likely formed shortly after the galaxies were formed – says Wolf.
Hopefully Wolf’s team’s efforts to discover more bodies like the fastest growing black hole turns up more instances that we’ll be able to study – but even if we’re unable to find black holes of similar size and speed, the discovery of this particular black hole definitely helps advance our understanding of how these impressive behemoths form.
As mentioned above, the full write up on the discovery of the fastest growing black hole were published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia on May 11th.