Black holes are perhaps the most unnerving of all astronomical objects, especially given that some of them are so large that they could swallow up, not only the Earth, but the entire solar system.
One prime example – the fastest-growing black hole on record – is so stupendously huge that it’s difficult to even comprehend the scale of the thing.
It is 500 times the size of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy and has a mass three billion times greater than the Sun.
It is growing so quickly, that it consumes the equivalent of the entire Earth every second.
Known as a quasar, this galactic behemoth is unlike the typical black holes found at the center of galaxies in that it is continuing to expand – feeding on the gas and dust surrounding it.
It is also extremely bright at roughly 7,000 times the combined luminance of the entire Milky Way.
“Astronomers have been hunting for objects like this for more than 50 years,” said lead researcher Christopher Onken at the Australian National University (ANU). “They have found thousands of fainter ones, but this astonishingly bright one had slipped through unnoticed.”
“Now, we want to know why this one is different – did something catastrophic happen ?”
“Perhaps two big galaxies crashed into each other, funneling a whole lot of material onto the black hole to feed it.”