Behemoth Black Hole Found in an Unlikely Place

Behemoth Black Hole Found in an Unlikely Place

Astronomers have uncovered a near-record-breaking supermassive black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, in an unlikely place: in the center of a galaxy in a sparsely populated area of the universe. The observations, made by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini telescope in Hawaii, could indicate that these monster objects may be more common than once thought.

Until now, the biggest supermassive black holes — those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun — have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. In fact, the current record holder tips the scale at 21 billion suns and resides in the crowded Coma galaxy cluster, which consists of over 1,000 galaxies.

“The newly discovered supersized black hole resides in the center of a massive elliptical galaxy, NGC 1600, located in a cosmic backwater, a small grouping of 20 or so galaxies,” said lead discoverer Chung-Pei Ma, a University of California-Berkeley astronomer and head of the MASSIVE Survey, a study of the most massive galaxies and supermassive black holes in the local universe. While finding a gigantic black hole in a massive galaxy in a crowded area of the universe is to be expected — like running across a skyscraper in Manhattan — it seemed less likely they could be found in the universe’s small towns.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]