At the heart of our home galaxy is a supermassive black hole that gobbles up anything that gets too close. It’s huge, with a mass of 4 million times that of our Sun, but size is a relative thing when we’re talking about the universe, and astronomers just spotted a black hole in a distant galaxy that puts ours to shame.
The galaxy, Holm 15A, sits around 700 million light-years away, making it somewhat difficult to study in detail, but what scientists know for sure is that the black hole in its heart is the largest ever discovered. In fact, researchers believe the black hole in Holm 15A is at least 10,000 times as massive as our home galaxy’s black hole.
In a new research paper, scientists led by Kianusch Mehrgan of the Max Planck Institute reveal that the black hole in Holm 15A is up to nine times larger than they initially expected it to be, and it’s easily the largest black hole ever spotted. It’s thought to be at least twice as large as the previous largest black hole detected by scientists.
The fact that it’s so incredibly massive means that despite its huge distance from Earth, it might prove to be a good candidate for imaging using current technology. The first image ever captured of a black hole was shown by scientists earlier this year, and the same array of telescopes that made that image possible may also be able to spot the one in Holm 15A.
Astronomers have learned a lot about the universe and our place in it thanks to high-powered telescopes, but there’s clearly still a lot out there that we have yet to even imagine. As technology continues to advance, and we gain the ability to peer deeper and deeper into the cosmos, new discoveries surely await, and Holm 15A’s black hole may not be the record holder for long.