The fastest growing black hole that has ever been observed has been approximated and tilts the scale to 34 billion times the mass of the sun. The researchers who estimated the weight also say that it continues to grow and devour the matter of a sun per day. In addition to these Mondo statistics, the eating monster can also help unravel some of the key secrets of the early universe.
European Southern Observatory
The “ultra-massive black hole” (literally a class of black holes), called J2157-3602, was discovered in 2018 and has an initial weight of 20 billion solar masses – a mass of the sun is a unit of mass that is the mass of the sun. Since then, researchers have declined to take new measurements with the Very Large Telescope Array in Chile. (Pictured directly below.)
J2157 is “approximately 8,000 times larger than the black hole at the center of the Milky Way,” said Australian National University astronomer Christopher Onken told Science Alert. He added: “If the Milky Way black hole wanted this fat to grow, it would have to swallow two thirds of all the stars in our galaxy.”
ESO / H.H. Heyer
Onken and others described these new measurements in a recent article in the magazine. Monthly communications from the Royal Astronomical Society. In the work that comes via ZME Science, the researchers say that the ultra-massive black hole is not only gigantic, but also the most brilliant quasar in the known universe. A quasar – shown above – is essentially a black hole that actively sucks gas and dust from a surrounding accretion disk. In other words, a “feeding” black hole.
Although J2157 is unimaginably large, it’s not the most massive black hole we’ve ever seen. This title belongs to an ultra-massive black hole that powers the quasar known as TON 618, which is approximately 10.4 billion light years from Earth. The indescribably large, easily swallowing animal weighs in 66 billion solar masses. Below you will find a comparison of all different sized black holes as a visual reference.
Like TON 618, J2157 is astonishingly far from Earth. According to Science Alert, J2157 is several billion light years away. However, the measurement is not as accurate as that for TON 618. J2157 can still help illuminate the very early universe when it was younger than 1 billion years old. Especially when it comes to getting information about the galaxy in which it is located.
“Is this galaxy one of the giants of the early universe, or has the black hole just swallowed up an extraordinary amount of its surroundings?” Onken asked rhetorically. Depending on the answer to this question, cosmological models that explain how the universe has grown over time could be changed. At the moment, astronomers are still trying to figure out how black holes can become as massive as J2157 so early in the existence of the universe.
What do you think about J2157 and its ability to swallow the mass of a sun every day? Do you have any ideas on how the ultra-massive hole will change our understanding of the early universe? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Feature picture: European Southern Observatory