Astronomers have found a supermassive black hole weighing in at 17 billion suns in a sparsely populated area of the universe.
The observations were made by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Telescope in Hawaii. This find, located in the center of a galaxy, may indicate that these supermassive black holes are far more common than previously thought.
The biggest supermassive black hole recorded to date has a mass of 21 billion suns and resides in the Coma galaxy cluster which contains over 1,000 galaxies. Earlier this year, astronomers suggested that super massive black holes may be able to reach a mass of up to 50 billion suns.
“The newly discovered supersized black hole resides in the center of a massive elliptical galaxy, NGC 1600, located in a cosmic backwater, a small grouping of 20 or so galaxies,” says lead discoverer Chung-Pei Ma, a University of California-Berkeley astronomer. “There are quite a few galaxies the size of NGC 1600 that reside in average-size galaxy groups,” Ma said. “We estimate that these smaller groups are about 50 times more abundant than spectacular galaxy clusters like the Coma cluster. So the question now is, ‘Is this the tip of an iceberg?’ Maybe there are more monster black holes out there that don’t live in a skyscraper in Manhattan, but in a tall building somewhere in the Midwestern plains.”