Astronomers discover the fastest-growing black hole ever

5_15_Black Hole

"Again, if this monster was at the centre of the Milky Way it would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of x-rays emanating from it", he said.

A group of astronomers hailing from Australia have discovered the fastest-growing black hole in the universe, a cosmic monster that can devour mass equivalent to our sun every two days.

Christian Wolf at the Australian National University (ANU) said that no one has an idea as to how the object grew to be so big so fast in the Universe's early days.

The so-called supermassive black hole is more than 12 billion light years away and thought to be the size of 20 billion of our suns. They occasionally swallow stars, other celestial bodies and gas and emit a portion of the captured matter in the form of jets beams of heated plasma moving at relativistic speeds.

It sounds odd to describe a black hole as "bright", but astronomers at Australian National University have spotted one so bright that were it in our home galaxy, it would outshine all the stars in the sky and even give the full moon a run for its money.

"If we had this monster sitting at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon". This also helped with its detection as light waves from the black hole red-shifted during their long journey to Earth, allowing the astronomers to use ANU's SkyMapper telescope to detect them in near-infrared.

"We're now trying to get demographics on the most extreme black holes that are out there so we can create a complete inventory". Wolf further added that it would have appeared as an unbelievably bright "pin-point star", which could wash out almost every star present in the celestial sphere.

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"These large and rapidly growing black holes are exceedingly rare, and we have been searching for them with SkyMapper for several months now", Wolf said, crediting the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite for its legwork.

The discovery of the new supermassive black hole was confirmed using the spectrograph on the ANU 2.3 metre telescope to split colours into spectral lines.

But don't panic - Dr Wolf says it won't suck us in.

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

"Surprisingly we have found such massive black holes already in the early universe, just 800 million years after the Big Bang".

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