The Fastest-Growing Black Hole Could Swallow the Sun in Two Days

The supermassive black hole is a reminder of the violence of the early universe.

supermassive black hole
ESA/NASA

Astronomers have discovered the fastest-growing black hole known to exist in the universe. In its seemingly endless hunger, the supermassive black hole consumes the mass equivalent of our sun every two days.

A black hole is an object with such overwhelmingly powerful gravity that not even particles of light can escape. The fastest-growing black hole was found 12 billion light-years away with the SkyMapper telescope at the Australian National University (ANU). The black hole was estimated to be the size of about 20 billion suns with a one percent 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 Dr. Christian Wolf of the (ANU), who led the study, in a .

The gasses falling into the black hole experience high amounts of energy and glow brightly around the event horizon. These gases cause a tremendous amount of friction and heat, making the the black hole uniquely visible. If it were at the center of the Milky Way, a full 100,000 light years from Earth, the enormous black hole would appear in the night sky 10 times brighter than the moon. .

However, we wouldn't be able to appreciate it much if that happened. Wolf went on to say that if it were in the center of the Milky Way, as opposed to the Sagittarius A* black hole, "it would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of x-rays emanating from it."

While unnamed, Wolf refers to the black hole as a "monster."

The black hole is currently sitting still in the sky, an indication that it is very far away from the Milky Way. While scientists, according to Wolf, "don't know how this one grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the universe," they are eager to find the answers. New land-based telescopes being built over the next decade might able to directly measure the expansion of the universe using these bright black holes.

Black holes are some of the most mysterious regions in space. While predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity, it took years for astronomers to confirm that they exist at all.

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