May 27, 2018

This Bright Supermassive Black Hole Eats a Sun Every Two Days

15 May 2018, 09:50 | Lucia Cruz

This image from the VISTA Hemispheric Survey shows the ultra-luminous quasar SMSS J

This image from the VISTA Hemispheric Survey shows the ultra-luminous quasar SMSS J

Supermassive black holes, or quasars, like this one, are hard to find among the billions of stars spread across the cosmos.

New York Times columnist and science writer Carl Zimmer tweeted in response to the ANU press release stating: "Astronomers find a hungry black hole that could gobble up our sun in two days".

As Dr. Christian Wolf of the Australian National University explained, this finding represents a big problem for astrophysics which, until now, was pretty much sure that supernovae turn into black holes which are up to 50 solar masses and can not exceed this limitation.

"In the past, people perhaps went for black holes that were easier to identify because they looked a bit different", Dr Wolf said.

This supermassive black hole is about the size of 20 billion stars, and it continues to grow at a rate of 1 percent per 1 million years.

The SkyMapper telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory detected this light in the near-infrared, as the light waves had red-shifted over the billions of light years to Earth. Wolf said that the reason is that the large amount of gases it takes in every day causes much heat and friction.

This makes the newfound giant black hole the fastest-growing quasar in the known universe.

Wolf said that if the black hole had been located at the central position of the Milky Way galaxy, it would have appeared near about ten times brighter as compared to a full moon.

"We're now trying to get demographics on the most extreme black holes that are out there so we can create a complete inventory".

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

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

"The light has travelled for 12 billion years until it reached us and we were now able to see this".

The capsule, he said, helped to confirm that the far-away object was a candidate to be a very large quasar. "So this means it's far, far away in another galaxy and it will never drift and come over here", he said.

READ NEXT: Beyond the Big Bang: What would it have been like to witness the birth of the universe?

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

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

The study, titled "Discovery of the most ultra-luminous QSO using Gaia, SkyMapper, and WISE", will be detailed in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia and the arXiv preprint is available online.

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