Astronomers Have Discovered a Bunch of New 'Ultramassive' Black Holes

Wednesday, 21 February 2018 - 12:18PM
Astronomy
Space
Black Holes
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 - 12:18PM
Astronomers Have Discovered a Bunch of New 'Ultramassive' Black Holes
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First, a little perspective: the sun is about 330,000 times more massive than the Earth, which means it's large enough to fit 1.3 million Earths inside of it. That's pretty big.

Now, that black hole astronomers found in December – the one that is somehow older than light itself – is about 800 million times MORE massive than the sun. In fact, scientists claim that it shouldn't even be that big, considering what we know about black hole growth rates. But that ancient, Lovecraftian monster on the edge of space can't compare to what was just spotted lurking in the centers of galaxies roughly 3.5 billion light-years away.

Of the 72 galaxies observed by the University of Montreal and the Institute of Space Sciences, about half of them contained a black hole at their centers that dwarfed anything scientists expected to see. These black holes had masses about 10 billion times that of our sun, classifying them as "ultramassive" (a step up from "supermassive," which shouldn't even be a thing). Each one is about ten times larger than what researchers expected to find, and they constitute some of the most massive black holes ever discovered.

But more surprises were in store for scientists. These ultramassive black holes are also growing more quickly than the stars contained in the surrounding galaxies, which is at odds with the current scientific consensus. Like that ancient black hole, however, the rules may bend for special cases. According to astrophysicist Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo, "We do know that black holes are extraordinary phenomena, so it's no surprise that the most extreme specimens defy the rules that we have established up until now."

If there's one thing we've learned about black holes, it's that they're portals to weirdness – they can be invisible, they might create a duplicate of you when you fall in, and a black hole might even have created our universe. The very fact that there are gigantic, swirling vortices in the fabric of space and time is pretty mind-blowing. Now that we know black holes can grow even more massive than expected, what other surprises might they have in store for us?

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