Fastest-Growing 'Monster' Black Hole Ever Discovered Devours Sun's Mass Every Two Days

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A jet of plasma shoots from an accreting black hole in this artist's impression. JPL-Caltech/NASA/Handout via Reuters

Astronomers have found the fastest-growing black hole ever discovered. This enormous beast, they've found, gulps down a mass equivalent of the sun every two days.

The team discovered it was growing at a rate of one percent every million years in the early stages of the universe, some 12 billion years ago.

"We don't know how this one grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the Universe," said Christian Wolf from the Australian National University (ANU) in a statement. "The hunt is on to find even faster-growing black holes."

The black hole pumps out huge amounts of light, outshining whole galaxies. "This black hole is growing so rapidly that it's shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy, due to all of the gases it sucks in daily that cause lots of friction and heat," Wolf said.

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"If we had this monster sitting at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon. It would appear as an incredibly bright pinpoint star that would almost wash out all of the stars in the sky," he added.

In fact, if this "monster" black hole was at the heart of our galaxy, its enormous X-ray output would likely make life on Earth impossible, he said.

Wolf and his team combed through huge banks of data to find this mega black hole. They used ANU's own Skymapper Southern Sky Survey and the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite data to home in on the beast. The team looked into the early universe to find the black hole.

Astronomers might be able to probe the formation of early galaxies by looking at the light streaming from these mysterious monsters, Wolf said.

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"Scientists can see the shadows of objects in front of the supermassive black hole," he added. "Fast-growing supermassive black holes also help to clear the fog around them by ionizing gases, which makes the Universe more transparent."

Wolf and his team are set to publish their research in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. For now, it is available on the preprint server, arXiv.