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Australian astronomers find black hole as big as 20 billion suns

16 May 2018

We often think of a black hole as the darkest object in the universe, consuming even the light that comes near it.

Australian researchers have discovered what they've described as the fastest-growing black hole in the universe.

Wolf said if it was at the centre of the Milky Way, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon as a pin-point star that would nearly wash out all the stars in the sky.

"It would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon and nearly wash out all of the stars in the sky".

To put the mind-blowing scale of the black hole into further perspective, it's estimated to be the size of 20 billion suns and capable of sucking up mass equal to our sun every couple of days.

However, it's a good thing our planet is not so close to such a monster black hole.

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

Keep in mind that the center of the Milky Way is about 26,000 light-years away from Earth.

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However, the recently discovered monstrous black hole is so huge that, even if it had formed right after the Big Bang and expanded at the highest possible rate, it would have absorbed stars with masses higher than our Sun's mass by several thousands times to be as big as the astronomers observed it recently.

The energy radiated from supermassive black holes ionizes the surrounding gas and contribute cosmic reionization, where neutral atoms break apart into their constituent parts: electrons, protons, and neutrons.

The supermassive black hole was found after astronomers peered back into the age of the early universe, some 12 billion years ago.

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

"Fast-growing supermassive black holes also help to clear the fog around them by ionising gases, which makes the universe more transparent".

The find, which came after months of months of SkyMapper scanning, was further confirmed by European Space Agency's Gaia satellite. 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.

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

Christian Wolf of the ANU's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics said.

Australian astronomers find black hole as big as 20 billion suns