Record-breaking black hole weighs 40 billion times more than the sun

As if black holes weren’t already a big deal in our universe, a black hole that was spotted in another galaxy has broken a record as the heaviest known black hole to ever be measured. 

Phys.org reports that the black hole, which is located in the Holm 15A galaxy, weighs a record-breaking 40 billion times the mass of our sun. Scientists used the Very Large Telescope in northern Chile and the Wendelstein Observatory in Germany to obtain data about the black hole based on centered darkness of the otherwise starry galaxy. 

“There are only a few dozen direct mass measurements of supermassive black holes, and never before has it been attempted at such a distance,” Jens Thomas, the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics scientist who led the study, told Phys.org. “But we already had some idea of the size of the black hole in this particular galaxy, so we tried it.”

This particular black hole is located in the Abell 85 cluster of galaxies, which consists of about 500 galaxies and is about 700 million light-years away from Earth. It’s the most distant black hole scientists have been able to measure. 

A black hole forms when a star collapses at the end of its life. The gravitational pull that results from its collapse prevents anything — including light itself — from escaping, resulting in a black, massive void.

Scientists are trying to learn more about the elusive and mysterious black holes that make up our universe. In April, astronomers were able to capture the first image of a black hole. The orange glow from the image captured in April resembles a visualization of a black hole’s accretion disk by Jeremy Schnittman, research astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The black hole in the April image is located in Messier 87, a galaxy 55 million light-years away. 

We also now have an idea of what a black hole might sound like, thanks to physicists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In September, their findings published in Physical Review Letters reported that a “baby” black hole makes a sound like a chirp. Scientists described the sound as “a waveform that quickly crescendoed before fading away,” or something resembling the sound of a “chirp.” 

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