Fastest-Growing Black Hole Gulps a Sun Every 2 Days

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The discovery of the new supermassive black hole was confirmed using the spectrograph on the ANU 2.3 meter telescope to split colors into spectral lines.

If this behemoth was in the center of the Milky Way it would have been the only object visible at night, washing out all other stars and planets in its light, says Wolf.

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.

The light detected from the black hole likely originates from about 12 billion years ago when the black hole was as large as 20 billion suns.

Such supermassive black holes, also called quasars, can actually emit energy.

"In the past, people perhaps went for black holes that were easier to identify because they looked a bit different", Dr Wolf said. It would appear as an incredibly bright pin-point star that would nearly wash out all of the stars in the sky, "said Christian Wolf, lead author of the study and a researcher from the Australian National University".

"Maybe this will tell us something insane about the Big Bang that we never dreamt of or thought possible", he said.

"And it might mean that there were seeds to these black holes in the very early universe".

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"Fast-growing supermassive black holes also help to clear the fog around them by ionizing gases, which makes the universe more transparent".

The black hole is now sitting still in the sky, an indication that it is very far away from the Milky Way.

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Christian Wolf of Australian National University (ANU) is lead author of the study of this object, which is labeled by the quasar name QSO SMSS~J215728.21-360215.1.

The discovery could help astronomers learn about the formation of early galaxies, Wolf said. "Instruments on very large ground-based telescopes being built over the next decade would be able to directly measure the expansion of the Universe using these very bright black holes".

Now scientists are on the hunt for another black hole that might beat out this black hole's appetite and give them a glimpse into the inner workings of the universe only a few billion years after it formed.

The breakthrough was made because of the precision of the European Space Agency's Gaia mission, which allows the Earth-bound SkyMapper to more precisely bypass the "contamination" from cool stars in the Milky Way, which may get in the way.

He has worked as a journalist in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and joined the Times in March 2018.

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