Australian astronomers find black hole as big as 20 billion suns

15 May, 2018, 21:49 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • A monster black hole has been discovered, and it's growing very fast (but it's far, far away)

The astronomers have looked back more than 12 billion years to the early dark ages of the Universe, when this supermassive black hole was estimated to be the size of about 20 billion suns with a one per cent growth rate every one million years.

If the sun were to fall into this incredibly dense cosmic object, it would only take two days for the black hole to devour it, the scientists behind the new discovery have said.

Dr Christian Wolf from the ANU's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, says the black hole emits huge amounts of radiation which is in the form of ultraviolet light but also radiated X-rays.

Dr Wolf and his team have spent six months searching for "exceedingly rare" large and rapidly-growing black holes using the state-of-the-art SkyMapper telescope.

Though the team has no idea how this monstrous black hole grew so big when the universe was still in its infancy, they plan to continue their search for other fast-growing black holes, possibly faster than this one, in the universe.

"That one has a mass of 5 million solar masses - that is 40,000 times less mass than the one that we have now found", Dr. Wold added.

Astronomers are not yet sure how this black hole grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the universe. Previously, astronomers had already found black holes much heavier than they should be due to their age. Otherwise, it could potentially emit tons of X-rays, making it impossible for life to exist.

"As the Universe expands, space expands and that stretches the light waves and changes their colour", Dr Wolf said.

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"We don't have to be afraid of that".

In addition, these fast-growing quasars help clear the fog around transiting objects, "which makes the universe more transparent", said Wolf.

The light travelled for 12 billion years until it reached the SkyMapper telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory.

"So this means it's far, far away in another galaxy and it will never drift and come over here."

"Maybe this will tell us something insane about the Big Bang that we never dreamt of or thought possible", he said.

The new work was accepted to the journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

These shiny supernovas can be used as beacons to identify and study the formation of elements in early galaxies of the universe; scientists can see shadows of objects in front of a supermassive black hole.

A black hole is an intense gravitational pull that sucks in everything in its path, including light.

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