Astronomers have found a monster black hole, some 17 billion times more massive than the sun, in a modestly sized galaxy, raising suspicions that supermassive black holes may be much more common than originally thought.
Black holes are regions so packed with matter that not even photons of light can escape the gravitational warping of space.
The largest black hole found so far is about 21 billion times more massive than the sun. In comparison, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, named Sagittarius A, is about 4 million time the mass of the sun.
The newly discovered black hole is in a somewhat isolated and average-sized galaxy known as NGC 1600. It was studied as part of an ongoing survey of the 100 most massive galaxies within about 300 million light-years from Earth.
“Probably all of these galaxies harbor black holes in their centers. The question we would like to answer is how massive the black holes are, and whether there are more hefty ones like the one we found in NGC 1600,” University of California Berkeley astronomer Chung-Pei Ma wrote in an email to Discovery News.
“We don’t know right now if NGC 1600 is the tip of an iceberg, or a rare find, perhaps as a result of an unusually voracious phase during its youth,” she added.
-more at Discovery