Astronomers have detected the fastest growing black hole ever known in the universe that is capable of engulfing matter equivalent to the size of the sun every two days.
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. It emits light that is a thousand times brighter than an entire galaxy due to the heat and friction caused by all the gases it absorbed.
"If we had this monster sitting at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon. It would appear as an incredibly bright pin-point star that would almost wash out all of the stars in the sky," said Dr. Christian Wolf, from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University in Canberra.
The energy coming from the quasar or black hole is mostly ultraviolet light and radiated x-rays. Experts said if the black hole exists in the Milky Way galaxy, life would be impossible on Earth.
The study was published May 11 in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.
Detecting The Massive Black Hole
Wolf's team discovered the black hole while they were searching for it using the SkyMapper telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran, New South Wales.
The light that was detected by the SkyMapper was confirmed by the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite.
"While objects of this luminosity are exceedingly rare in the Universe, they are particularly valuable as bright background and reference sources in order to study the properties of intervening matter along the line-of-sight, and for directly probing the expansion of our Universe with new instruments in the coming decades," the authors reported.
Although Wolf's team is uncertain how the black hole grew so big during the early days of the universe, he said they are on to find similar giant ones.
What Are Black Holes?
A black hole is an intense gravitational pull that sucks in everything in its path, including light. As gas and dust enter the void, the matter is accelerated rapidly and heated at very high temperatures. This then produces high amounts of x-ray light.
While it appears that black holes suck in matter, the material does not necessarily fall into it. Rather, it is immediately swirled outward at the speed of light.
Black holes are classified into three groups: primordial, stellar, and supermassive. Scientists believe that primordial black holes were formed right after the Big Bang while stellar black holes occur when a massive star collapses in itself.
The supermassive ones, like what has been discovered by Wolf's team, occurred at the same time the galaxies were formed.