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For the first time ever, the universe's fastest-growing black hole has been measured and it's a biggun. The hole itself, called J2157, was discovered two years ago by astronomers at the Australian National University (ANU).
Now, the astronomers have measured J2157 and have discovered that its mass is 34 billion times bigger than our Earth's sun, and devours the equivalent of our sun each single day.
Their study was published on Wednesday in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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That's one big, ever-growing black hole
By eating such huge masses each day, J2157 is roughly 8,000 times larger than the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
"If the Milky Way's black hole wanted to grow that fast," lead author Dr. Christopher Onken commented in a press release, "it would have to swallow two-thirds of all the stars in our galaxy."
Generally, the amount that a black hole consumes is due to how big it is. "We knew we were on to a very massive black hole when we realized its fast growth rate," said co-researcher Dr. Fuyan Bian. "[For] this one to be devouring matter at such a high rate, we thought it could become a new record holder. And now we know."
It can be quite tricky finding a black hole, as they typically are, well, black. But this one, in particular, was relatively easy to pinpoint as it sucks in so much mass and gas that it creates a significant amount of light around it. To put it into perspective, ANU's Dr. Chris Wolf said, "If we had this monster sitting at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon. It would appear as an incredibly bright pin-point star that would almost wash out all of the stars in the sky."
If this monster of a black hole was lying in our galaxy, we wouldn't be able to sustain life on Earth as it is. There would be far too much radiation that any chance of life would be obliterated.
Finding out how much and how quickly J2157 is growing has sparked many more questions for astronomers — "Is this galaxy one of the behemoths of the early Universe, or did the black hole just swallow up an extraordinary amount of its surroundings?" Dr. Onken questioned. "With such an enormous black hole, we're also excited to see what we can learn about the galaxy in which it's growing."