Australian astronomers find a cosmic 'monster' that's growing fast

It has an appetite so big it devours a mass equivalent to the sun every two days, and it's growing fast.

But astronomers from the Australian National University, who have discovered the fastest-growing black hole known in the universe, say the "monster" hole is thankfully too far from Earth to swallow us up.

The fastest-growing black hole in the universe sits behind the cross.

The newly discovered black hole is more than 12 billion light years away and about 20 billion times bigger than the sun.

It's only going to keep getting bigger, growing at a rate of 1 per cent every one million years.

The fastest-growing black hole in the universe sits behind the pink cross.

ANU astronomer Dr Christian Wolf said if the hole was in the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, we probably wouldn't be here.

"It would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of X-rays emanating from it," Dr Wolf said.

"It would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon and almost wash out all of the stars in the sky."

Dr Wolf and his team have spent six months searching for "exceedingly rare" large and rapidly-growing black holes using the state-of-the-art SkyMapper telescope.

He said the record-breaking hole had been "hiding in plain sight" until about two weeks ago, when the European Space Agency released data that made it easier to identify black holes among the stars.

The SkyMapper telescope, which Australian National University astronomers used to find the fastest-growing black hole known in the universe.

"In the past, people perhaps went for black holes that were easier to identify because they looked a bit different," Dr Wolf said.

"They are difficult to identify because there are a myriad of stars out there, so you don't always know that you've got something special.

"We're now trying to get demographics on the most extreme black holes that are out there so we can create a complete inventory."

Dr Wolf said compiling a complete inventory would hopefully take less than three years, with the ANU's SkyMapper telescope and the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite making the task more achievable than it would have been in the past.

He said instruments being built over the next decade would also be able to directly measure the expansion of the universe using bright black holes like the one just discovered.

"The hunt is on to find even faster-growing black holes," Dr Wolf said.

Astronomers are not yet sure how this black hole grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the universe.

Given its distance from Earth, Dr Wolf said it would have formed when the universe, which was formed 13.8 billion years ago, was just 1.3 billion years old.

"Maybe this will tell us something crazy about the Big Bang that we never dreamt of or thought possible," he said.

Source: Read Full Article