The fastest-growing black hole
Astronomers in Australia have discovered a supermassive black hole that’s expanding faster than any other seen before—a cosmic behemoth devouring the mass equivalent of the sun every two days. Expanding at a rate of 1 percent every million years, the observed black hole is roughly the size of 20 billion suns. (An average black hole is about 50 times larger than the sun.) The friction and heat produced by the gases being sucked in make it shine “thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy,” says lead researcher Christian Wolf, from Australian National University. Wolf and his colleagues spotted the radiating black hole, known as a quasar, with the help of newly released data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite and NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer satellite. They calculated that it lies approximately 12 billion light-years from Earth, meaning we are seeing it as it was just 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang. Astrophysicists are unsure what’s causing the quick rate of expansion, reports ScienceDaily.com. But they hope its discovery will improve our understanding of the early days of the universe.