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April 22, 2024 3:59 pm

Fastest-growing black hole and brightest object in universe discovered

New Delhi, February 20

Astronomers have discovered the fastest-growing black hole ever recorded — the most luminous known object in the universe that is devouring the equivalent of one Sun every day.

The researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) noted that the black hole with a mass roughly 17 billion times that of the Sun, has set a record that may not ever be beaten.

“The incredible rate of growth also means a huge release of light and heat,” said study lead author Christian Wolf, Associate Professor at ANU.

“So, this is also the most luminous known object in the universe. It is 500 trillion times brighter than our sun,” Wolf said in a statement.

A black hole is a region of spacetime where gravity is so strong that nothing, including light, can escape it.

Christopher Onken, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, noted that it was a surprise that the blackhole remained undetected until now, given what we know about many other, less impressive ones.

The blackhole was first detected using a 2.3 metre telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran in New South Wales (NSW).

The research team then turned to one of the largest telescopes in the world – the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile – to confirm the full nature of the black hole and measure its mass.

“The light from this black hole has travelled over 12 billion years to reach us,” said Professor Rachel Webster from the University of Melbourne said.

“In the adolescent universe, matter was moving chaotically and feeding hungry black holes. Today, stars are moving orderly at safe distances and only rarely plunge into black holes,” Webster said.

The intense radiation comes from the accretion disc — made of rapidly rotating gas — around the black hole, which is the holding pattern for all the material waiting to be devoured, the researchers said.

“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 said.

“This storm cell is seven light years across, which is 50 per cent more than the distance from our solar system to the next star in the Galaxy, alpha Centauri,” he added.

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