A black hole which is swallowing mass equivalent to an Earth each second has been spotted by astronomers. This is the fastest-growing black hole of the last 9 billion years. The discovery has been recently made by an international team led by astronomers from the Australian National University (ANU).
The black hole shines 7,000 times brighter than all the light from our own galaxy making it visible to well-equipped backyard astronomers, according to lead researchers Dr Christopher Onken and co-author Christian Wolf, who led the team.
Both the astronomers described the black hole as a “very large, unexpected needle in the haystack”.
According to Onken, astronomers have been hunting for objects like this for more than 50 years and surprisingly this “astonishingly bright black hole” remained unnoticed.
What has made the researchers curious is that the black hole has the mass of three billion suns, while others of comparable size stopped growing so quickly billions of years ago.
"Now we want to know why this one is different - did something catastrophic happen? Perhaps two big galaxies crashed into each other, funnelling a whole lot of material onto the black hole to feed it," said Onken.
According to co-author Christian Wolf, Assistant Professor at ANU, the black hole is such an outlier that he does not believe another one like this will be found.
The black hole is easily visible to anyone with a good telescope in a very dark backyard as it has a visual magnitude of 14.5. Visual magnitude is the measurement to find out how bright an object in space appears to an observer on Earth.
"It is 500 times bigger than the black hole in our own Galaxy," co-author and ANU PhD researcher Samuel Lai said.
The findings of the research have been published in arXiv database and submitted to Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.