Monster black hole discovered growing very fast - far, far away

A monster black hole has been discovered, and it's growing very fast (but it's far, far away)

Not that you'd know, because the x-rays emanating from it would make life on Earth impossible.

Australian astronomers have found the fastest-growing black hole in the known universe.

Dubbed J215728.21-360215.1, the supermassive black hole was recently noticed by the before-mentioned Dr. Wolf and his colleagues.

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

The supermassive black hole, or quasar, is thought to have been present in the early universe - when our now 13.8-billion-year-old universe was around 1.2 billion years old - and is such a monster, it swallows the mass of our own sun every two days.

"If we had this monster sitting at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon", Wolf added.

What's making astronomers so curious is that the black hole they saw was in the early days of the universe and they're wondering how it grew so large.

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

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

The discovery was made by astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU), led by Dr Christian Wolf of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"What's really important in this business is now to actually find the most massive ones because they are the hardest ones to explain", he says. "It would appear as an incredibly bright pinpoint star that would nearly wash out all of the stars in the sky", he added. Meanwhile, the Gaia satellite, which measures tiny motions of celestial objects, identified the back hole as a stationary object, which suggested it was very large and very far away. The team looked into the early universe to find the black hole.

Black holes of such huge size and with such rapid growth are very rare to spot.

"Scientists can see the shadows of objects in front of the supermassive black hole", he added.

The study was published May 11 in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

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.

He said instruments being built over the next decade would also be able to directly measure the expansion of the universe using bright black holes like the one just discovered.

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