News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Scientists have found a black hole so large it eats the equivalent of one sun per day

This illustration provided by the European Southern Observatory in February 2024 depicts the record-breaking quasar J059-4351, the bright core of a distant galaxy that is powered by a supermassive black hole.
M. Kornmesser
/
AP
This illustration provided by the European Southern Observatory in February 2024 depicts the record-breaking quasar J059-4351, the bright core of a distant galaxy that is powered by a supermassive black hole.

Picture a black hole so powerful that it swallows the equivalent of one sun every day.

Now imagine that black hole also has a mass that's 17 billion times larger than our sun.

Scientists in Australia have just found exactly that.

New research that was published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday lays out the discovery of a distant quasar containing what scientists say is the fastest-growing black hole ever recorded.

"It's a surprise it remained undetected until now, given what we know about many other, less impressive black holes," co-author Christopher Onken, a researcher at Australian National University, said in a university news release. "It was hiding in plain sight."

Researchers first detected the black hole using a telescope at the university's Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales and then confirmed it with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, one of the largest telescopes in the world.

Though black holes themselves don't emit any light, very large ones form bright objects called quasars. Located in the middle of galaxies, quasars are illuminated by all the matter that heats up as it gets pulled in.

Australian National University professor Christian Wolf, the study's lead author, said in the news release that the quasar is now the brightest known object in the universe, shining 500 trillion times brighter than the sun.

"The incredible rate of growth also means a huge release of light and heat," Wolf said.

Black holes are surrounded by an accretion disk, a swirling zone where material is first dragged in before being consumed. This black hole's accretion disk is 7 light-years wide.

"It looks like a gigantic and magnetic storm cell with temperatures of 10,000 degrees Celsius, lightning everywhere and winds blowing so fast they would go around Earth in a second," Wolf added.

This particular quasar, J059-4351, is located 12 billion light-years away.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tags
Joe Hernandez