Astronomers Have Found 'First EVER' "Ultra-Supermassive Black Hole" With a Mass of 30 Billion Suns

It is one of the most massive black holes ever discovered.

Scientists have identified an ultra-supermassive black hole 30 billion times the mass of our sun hiding in an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Black holes are born when colossal stars many times the size of our sun run out of fuel, and collapse in on themselves in spectacular fashion. The resulting singularity is incredibly dense, and boasts a gravitational pull so powerful that light itself cannot escape it.

Astronomers attempting to unravel the secrets of these insatiable singularities have to contend with a unique cosmological problem: how can you understand something that you cannot physically see?

As their name suggests, black holes emit no light of their own, and they have no conventional surfaces on which a nearby light source could reflect. However, scientists can still shed light (pun intended) on the nature of black holes by examining how they affect the surrounding universe.

For example, feeding black holes draw in material from nearby clouds, planets, and stars, which becomes superheated as it spirals ever closer to the event horizon, triggering the release of visible light, X-rays, and other forms of radiation.

Because of this, feeding black holes are relatively easy to see, and understand. On the flip side, black holes that aren’t actively consuming mass are incredibly difficult to spot. 

In a new study, scientists were able to detect the presence of a leviathan, hidden black hole by solving the riddle behind the creation of an arc of light in an image from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The strange curve in the Hubble image - which can be seen in the explainer video embedded above - was created by a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, wherein the influence of a massive object warps the path of light travelling towards Earth from a distant background light source, such as a galaxy.

A team of scientists ran a series of supercomputer simulations in an attempt to identify the source of the lensing captured in the image. Each recreation explored how the presence of black holes of varying masses embedded in a foreground galaxy could bend the light emanating from the more distant background galaxy in different ways.

The team discovered that they could recreate the unique lensing seen in the Hubble image by introducing a monstrous black hole to the simulation, which, embedded in the heart of the closest galaxy, had a mass the equivalent to 30 billion Suns.

If the singularity does indeed exist as the simulations suggest, it would be “one of the largest black hole masses measured to date, and qualifies it as an ultra-supermassive black hole”, according to the new paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. However, the authors also note that further investigation will be needed “to draw firm conclusions”.

The scientists hope that their research will lead to a deeper understanding of the enormous black holes lurking at the heart of every large galaxy.


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