This Ancient Black Hole Outshines the Entire Milky Way—And No One Can Explain It

Tuesday, 15 May 2018 - 11:58AM
Astronomy
Space
Black Holes
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 - 11:58AM
This Ancient Black Hole Outshines the Entire Milky Way—And No One Can Explain It
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Image credit: NASA

Finding a black hole that's older than light itself is impressive (and more than a little unnerving). Finding a black hole that eats the same amount of mass as our Sun every two days and shines thousands of times brighter than whole galaxies...that's just crazy. But that's what astronomers from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics have spotted.



"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 Dr. Christian Wolf, one of the co-authors of a new study on the black hole.

 

"If we had this monster sitting at the center 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."



Not only would the light from this black hole be blinding to those looking to the night sky, its radiation would be so powerful that it might have killed all life on Earth. 

 

Dr. Wolf says, "If this monster was at the center of the Milky Way it would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of x-rays emanating from it."

 

Luckily for us, this black hole is far, far away—the only reason we even know it exists is because astronomers picked up on its red-shifted light from roughly 12 billion years ago, which took light-years to reach Earth.

 

Still, the data we have from its old light show that this black hole was already growing incredibly fast—a rate of 1 percent growth every million years.



"We don't know how this one grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the Universe," says Dr. Wolf. "The hunt is on to find even faster-growing black holes."

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