Photo credit: Dimitar Todorov/Alamy
By Nicola Davis
Our universe could be riddled with monster black holes, new research has suggested.
The revelation comes after a black hole with a mass of 17bn suns was found in a large, virtually isolated galaxy 200m light years away.
Black holes are referred to as “supermassive” if they have masses of millions or billions of times more than the sun. Supermassive black holes with masses of more than 10bn suns have previously been found at the heart of large galaxies located in dense clusters in the universe. But this is the first time astronomers have found such an object lurking at the centre of a large galaxy in a relatively empty area of the universe.
“We didn’t expect to see such a huge black hole in a small place,” said Professor Chung-Pei Ma, an author of the study from the University of California, Berkeley.
That, she added, opens up an intriguing possibility. With such galaxies more common than rich clusters, such supermassive black holes could be rife.
“What this is saying is that you don’t need these galaxy clusters to grow very massive black holes,” says Professor Poshak Gandhi of the University of Southampton, who was not involved in the study. “That throws a wrench in the works of our understanding of how these monster black holes form – it throws the field wide open.”
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