Finding the biggest black hole in the universe, 17 billion times bigger than the sun, is a major breakthrough. However, astronomers are now baffled by this monster black hole found in a nearby galaxy.
It’s a super-giant black hole, the kind that sci-fi authors have been writing about in their futuristic stories. Being 17 billion times bigger than our sun, the black hole in a galaxy nearby to our Milky Way is one of the biggest ever discovered so far. What’s baffling astronomers is that this monster black hole resides in a tiny galaxy.
The galaxy NGC 1277 is about 220 million light-year away and it’s only a quarter of our Milky Way in size, but it is home to the second-heaviest ever seen black hole, having a mass 17 billion times than that of our sun. This monster black hole is 4,000 times larger than the one residing at the centre of our galaxy.
It’s something that has astronomers baffled. How is it possible such a huge black hole can reside in such a tiny galaxy? Astronomers who discovered the monster black hole couldn’t believe their math was right. They took a year to double-check everything. “The first time I calculated it, I thought I must have done something wrong. We tried it again with the same instrument, then a different instrument” said lead author Remco van den Bosch. “Then I thought, ‘Maybe something else is happening’”.
“We don’t understand how to make such a massive black hole in such a puny galaxy” said Karl Gebhardt, one of the astronomers who discovered the monster black hole in the NGC 1277 galaxy. There are several theories that aim to explain how such big black holes can reside in such tiny galaxies since commonly a black hole would only account for one-tenth of 1 percent of the galaxy mass. This one occupies 14 percent of the NGC 1277 galaxy.
“This is an oddball” says Chung-Pei Ma, an UC Berkeley astrophysicist not involved with the discovery. “It’s a very big black hole for a small galaxy – that’s the most surprising part. It’s a very interesting discovery” he concludes in a statement for LA Times.