Astronomers have discovered the fastest-growing black hole known in the universe, describing it as a monster that devours a mass equivalent to our Sun every two days. Scientists of the Australian National University’s (ANU) Siding Spring Observatory first discovered this supermassive black hole, also known as a quasar, when data from a telescope called the SkyMapper flagged it as an object of potential interest.
The researchers then used data from the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite to determine how far away it was and determined that it took more than 12 billion years to the early dark ages of the universe, when this supermassive black hole was estimated to be the size of about 20 billion suns with a one per cent growth rate every one million years.
"This black hole is growing so rapidly that it's shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy, due to all of the gases it sucks in daily that cause lots of friction and heat," said ANU’s Christian Wolf. "If we had this monster sitting at the centre 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."
The energy emitted from quasar, was mostly ultraviolet light but also radiated x-rays. "Again, if this monster was at the centre of the Milky Way it would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of x-rays emanating from it," Wolf noted. Thanks to SkyMapper the ultraviolet light was detected.
"As the universe expands, space expands and that stretches the light waves and changes their colour," Wolf said. "These large and rapidly-growing blackholes are exceedingly rare, and we have been searching for them with SkyMapper for several months now” Wolf stated while thanking the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, to help find the supermassive black hole.
The Gaia satellite confirmed the object that they had found was sitting still. ""The hunt is on," Wolf said. "We want to get a complete picture of the demographics of fast-growing supermassive black holes in the universe, and see just how big is the problem which we have to solve. We don't know how this one grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the Universe," Wolf said while indicating that these kinds of black holes shine, and can be used as beacons to see and study the formation of elements in the early galaxies of the universe.
Source: Australian National University