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Researchers Explore Fastest-Growing Black Hole

An international group led by astronomers at The Australian National University (ANU) found the fastest-growing black hole of the last nine billion years.

Researchers Explore Fastest-Growing Black Hole.
Dr. Christopher Onken and Ph.D. candidate Samuel Lai. Image Credit: Jaime Kidston/ANU.

The black hole glows 7,000 times greater than all the other light in the galaxy, providing access to backyard astronomers with adequate equipment, and consumes the equivalent of Earth every second.

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

Astronomers have been hunting for objects like this for more than 50 years. They have found thousands of fainter ones, but this astonishingly bright one had slipped through unnoticed.

Dr. Christopher Onken, Lead Researcher, Australian National University

The black hole weighs three billion suns. Others of similar size stopped growing at such rapid rate billions of years ago.

Now we want to know why this one is different - did something catastrophic happen? Perhaps two big galaxies crashed into each other, funneling a whole lot of material onto the black hole to feed it.

Dr. Christopher Onken, Lead Researcher, Australian National University

Co-author Associate Professor Christian Wolf said, “This black hole is such an outlier that while you should never say never, I don’t believe we will find another one like this.”

We are fairly confident this record will not be broken. We have essentially run out of the sky where objects like this could be hiding,” Wolf added.

The black hole has a visual magnitude of 14.5 — the brightness of an object as seen by an observer on Earth.

This means that anyone with a good telescope in a dark backyard can see it.

It is 500 times bigger than the black hole in our Galaxy,” co-author and ANU Ph.D. researcher Samuel Lai said.

The orbits of the planets in our Solar System would all fit inside its event horizon - the black hole’s boundary from which nothing can escape,” Lai added.

The research was carried out as part of the SkyMapper project.

Journal Reference:

Onken, C. A., et al. (2022) Discovery of the most luminous quasar of the last 9 Gyr. Astrophysics of Galaxies.

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