UK Astronomers Discover Ultramassive Black Hole Weighing 33 Billion Suns
A groundbreaking discovery has been made by astronomers – a ultramassive black hole, perhaps the largest one known to humanity, weighing in at an astonishing 33 billion solar masses.
The black hole is situated at the center of a galaxy located hundreds of millions of light-years away from our planet.
The gargantuan black hole was unearthed using a method known as gravitational lensing. By analyzing the magnification of the foreground object in a series of Hubble Space Telescope images, scientists were able to simulate how much light bends around the galaxy where the black hole is located. After testing thousands of black hole sizes, the team arrived at a solution that matched the observations.
“This particular black hole, which is roughly 30 billion times the mass of our sun, is one of the biggest ever detected and on the upper limit of how large we believe black holes can theoretically become, so it is an extremely exciting discovery,” said James Nightingale, an astrophysicist at Durham University in the U.K. and lead author of the new study.
What’s remarkable is that the black hole is not very active, meaning that it isn’t consuming large quantities of material and therefore isn’t producing significant X-ray radiation. This type of black hole is nearly impossible to study using other methods. However, gravitational lensing has opened up the possibility of studying inactive black holes. This discovery could enable scientists to detect more black holes beyond our local universe and reveal how these exotic objects evolved further back in cosmic time.
“Most of the biggest black holes that we know about are in an active state, where matter pulled in close to the black hole heats up and releases energy in the form of light, X-rays, and other radiation. However, gravitational lensing makes it possible to study inactive black holes, something not currently possible in distant galaxies. This approach could let us detect many more black holes beyond our local universe and reveal how these exotic objects evolved further back in cosmic time,” Nightingale said.
The black hole is situated in one of the galaxies of the Abell 1201 galaxy cluster and is the first discovered using this technique. The findings of the study were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on March 29, 2023. This discovery could revolutionize our understanding of black holes and how they have evolved over time.