Astronomers find biggest black hole, 17 BILLION times the size of Sun

Black hole theory goatse'd by new discovery


A team at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has found the largest recorded black hole, one that swallows an unprecedented amount of its home galaxy, potentially requiring a rethink in our understanding of galactic formation.

The huge hole has been spotted in the heart of the disk system NGC 1277, a smallish galaxy about 10 per cent of the size of the Milky Way and situated around 220 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation Perseus.

Almost all galaxies have black holes at their centers, but they typically only take up around 0.1 per cent of the total galactic mass. The newly-discovered black hole takes up 14 per cent, making it 17 billion times the mass of our sun. By comparison, the black hole at the Milky Way's heart is around four million solar masses.

What's more, the discovery doesn’t seem to be a freak of nature. The team surveying black holes has found five other galaxies with similar characteristics, Dr. Karl Gebhardt, professor of astrophysics at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Register. Eight months ago, the team discovered a black hole that could be as large as 30 billion solar masses (though that's unconfirmed).

Black hole

A really, really, really big hole (click to enlarge)

One might expect to find larger black holes in older galaxies, but this does not appear to be the case. The NGC 1277 galaxy looks to be around eight billion years old – youngish on the cosmic scale – so the event that produced such a large black hole must have been formed by factors outside of our current experience.

"I would have said that it is unlikely that age has an effect, but we might be looking at a chicken and egg problem here. It is just not clear how to make a system with such a large black hole to galaxy ratio (a factor of 100 larger than typical ratios)," he explained.

Dr Karl Gebhardt

Time for a rethink suggests Dr. Karl Gebhardt (click to enlarge)

These discoveries could require some retooling of current astronomical theories, he said. The large size of the black hole doesn't fit with known models as they stand, and a deeper search could find many more examples of this kind of galaxy. The team will publish their results in the journal Nature this month.

"At the moment there are three completely different mechanisms that all claim to explain the link between black hole mass and host galaxies' properties. We do not understand yet which of these theories is best," Nature lead author Remco van den Bosch said in a statement. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022