Scientists Found A Supermassive Black Hole The Size Of 17 Billion Suns

Brilliance | Dec. 13, 2017

In April of 2016, scientists uncovered a supermassive black hole that is the size of 17 billion suns. And they found it residing in an unlikely place.

What It Is

Supermassive black holes aren't called that for nothin'! They are black holes on steroids—supermassive black holes contain between a million and a billion times more mass than a typical stellar black hole. In April 2016, astronomers found a near-record breaking supermassive black hole. This object, which was found in the NBC 1600 galaxy, weighs about 17 billion suns (yes, that is billions with a B). The behemoth was detected by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Telescope in Hawaii. This discovery is big, but not the biggest: The largest supermassive black hole we've uncovered has the mass of about 21 billion suns. The record-breaker sits in the crowded Coma galaxy cluster that consists of over 1,000 galaxies.

It's Mind-Boggling, But Is It Important?

This supermassive black hole is significant because it's so unexpected. This one doesn't quite make sense if you look at what we thought we knew about supermassive black holes. Basically, we thought there was a relationship between the size a black hole can be and the density and size of a part of the universe. But the black hole in the NGC 1600 galaxy threw astronomers way off. Because this supermassive black hole is in a sparsely populated part of the universe, scientists think there may be more supermassive black holes out there than we thought.

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