Discovery of an Ultramassive Black Hole
Astronomers have made a recent discovery of what could possibly be the largest black hole ever known.
A team of astronomers have found an enormous black hole at the core of a galaxy that is located hundreds of millions of light-years away from Earth. This ultramassive black hole has a mass of 30 billion suns, making it significantly larger than the supermassive black holes that are typically found in galaxies.
The black hole was identified as part of observations of a distant galaxy made possible by gravitational lensing.
While observing a galaxy that was even farther from Earth than the one that contained the ultramassive black hole, astronomers used the gravity of a foreground galaxy to magnify the image of the distant object. This phenomenon is known as gravitational lensing, where the gravity of massive objects bends light around them, acting as a natural telescope. Gravitational lensing is often used by astronomers to increase the magnification of objects that would otherwise be too distant for human-made telescopes to observe properly.
Discovery of a Massive Black Hole Using Gravitational Lensing
ames Nightingale, an astrophysicist from Durham University and the lead author of a new study, expressed great excitement regarding the recent discovery of an exceptionally large black hole, which has a mass of around 30 billion times that of our sun. Nightingale stated that this black hole is one of the largest ever found and is close to the maximum size that scientists believe black holes can theoretically reach.
The team of scientists determined the size of the black hole by analyzing images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and examining the magnification of the foreground object. The scientists utilized advanced computer modeling to simulate the amount of light that bends around the foreground galaxy, where the black hole is situated. The team tested numerous sizes of black holes until they arrived at a solution that matched the observations.
The black hole is situated in one of the galaxies of the Abell 1201 galaxy cluster and is the first black hole discovered using this technique. Even though the black hole is massive, it is not very active, implying that it is not consuming a great deal of material and is not generating powerful X-ray radiation. Such inactive black holes are almost impossible to study using other methods.
Nightingale explained that most of the largest black holes we know about are in an active state, where matter is pulled 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 enable scientists to detect many more black holes beyond our local universe and to understand better how these exotic objects developed further back in cosmic time.