18 Billion Suns -A Galaxy Classic: Biggest Black Hole in Universe Discovered—and it’s BIG

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March 18, 2008

18 Billion Suns -A Galaxy Classic: Biggest Black Hole in Universe Discovered—and it’s BIG

Black_hole_big_2_3Whatever gave birth to this monster can be real proud. The biggest black hole in the universe weighs in with a respectable mass of 18 billion Suns, and is about the size of an entire galaxy. Just like in the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito flick “Twins”, the massive black hole has a puny twin hovering nearby. By observing the orbit of the smaller black hole, astronomers are able to test Einstein's theory of general relativity with stronger gravitational fields than ever before.

The biggest black hole beats out its nearest competitor by six times. Fortunately, it’s 3.5 billion light years away, forming the heart of a quasar called OJ287. Quasars are extremely bright objects in which matter spiraling into a giant black hole emits large amounts of radiation.

The smaller black hole, which weighs about 100 million Suns, orbits the larger one on an oval-shaped path every 12 years. It comes close enough to punch through the disc of matter surrounding the larger black hole twice each orbit, causing a pair of outbursts that make OJ287 suddenly brighten.

General relativity predicts that the smaller hole's orbit itself should rotate over time, so that the point at which it comes nearest its neighbor moves around in space. This effect  is seen in Mercury's orbit around the Sun, on a much smaller scale.

In the case of OJ287, the tremendous gravitational field of the larger black hole causes the smaller black hole's orbit to precess at an impressive 39° each orbit. The precession changes where and when the smaller hole crashes through the disc surrounding its larger sibling.

About a dozen of the resulting bright outbursts have been observed to date, and astronomers led by Mauri Valtonen of Tuorla Observatory in Finland have analysed them to measure the precession rate of the smaller hole's orbit. That, along with the period of the orbit, suggests the larger black hole weighs a record 18 billion Suns.

So just how big can these bad boys get? Craig Wheeler of the University of Texas in Austin, US, says it depends only on how long a black hole has been around and how fast it has swallowed matter in order to grow. "There is no theoretical upper limit," he says.

The most recent outburst occurred on 13 September 2007, as predicted by general relativity. "If there was no orbital decay, the outburst would have been 20 days later than when it actually happened," Valtonen told New Scientist, adding that the black holes are on track to merge within 10,000 years.

Wheeler says the observations of the outbursts fit closely with the expectations from general relativity. "The fact that you can fit Einstein's theory [so well] ... is telling you that that's working," he says.

Posted by Rebecca Sato

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Links:

http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn13166-biggest-black-hole-in-the-cosmos-discovered.html
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/080109-aas-massive-black-holes.html

Comments

What a Monster!!! You have to love any article that can reference Twins!

this may be a dumb question i am curious though could a black hole swallow another black hole? or what does happen when one black whole gets close to another?

Okan;

Check out SPACE.COM. I've seen articles that explain what happens when black holes collide. They can feasibly knock each other out of the galaxy they inhabit.

What happens when two singularities meet? Really? They become a singularity, of course… and in short order. Please Google ‘white dwarf’ and ‘neutron star’ and then this will all make sense to you. Really.

Marty, really? Really.

Marty, really? Really.

"...about the size of an entire galaxy." is a bit of hyperbole, I think. It'd still be rather large, though, roughly 10 times the size of Pluto's orbit around the Sun.

google sky??

It is misleading to say it is the size of an entire galaxy, it is the mass of an entire galaxy, the article's wording suggests the black hole itself is as large in diameter as a galaxy and that is not true. We can infer that the circumference of the large black hole cannot be more than 12 light years, otherwise the smaller black hole could not orbit it at the rate stated in the article.

If it's 3.5 billion light years away, and they are set to merge in 10,000 years, they would have already merged 3,499,990,000 years ago? Or are they calculating that it will actually happen 10,000 years from now (Meaning they took the 3.5 billion light years it took the light to reach us into account).

To say that a black hole has a diameter is a bit contradictory as well, isn't it? A black hole is a singularity, where matter has been compressed so much that its 'dropped out' of the universe. So theoretically, wouldn't the diameter be less than that of a single atom?

I think it's safe to say we can start shipping our trash into outer space. lol

@Joshsou
The size of a black hole is usually determind by its event horizon.

I am not sure if a singularity actually has a size at all...

Surely all this happened ages ago and currently out there somewhere is that massive blackhole and its bigger than we think? Surely the blackhole merged 10,000 years ago? and the light is still 10,000 years away?
I dunno. maybe im being stupid.

Wow!, that is almost PHYSICALLY impossible to detect that great distance and find something enormousally monster of a black hole!!!!!
in the GREAT Universe future, I think black holes will start to SWOLLOW in the entire universe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
after all the Universe has it's own garbage containers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"PLEASE RECYCLE!!!!!!!!!"

You've missread the original article dude, there's not nearly enough matter in the universe for a black hole the size of a galaxy.. It actually has the WEIGHT of a galaxy, the size is that of a small moon.

That no moon, Thats a space station!

That no moon, Thats a space station!

Only 18 billion huh? I've seen bigger...

Just to toss out there some info, 18 billion solar masses would lead to a black hole with a approx radius of 32.9 billion miles. It would take light approx 49 hours to travel from the edge to the center of the event horizon to its center if it were flat compared to 8 minutes from our sun to the earth. Its not the size of a galaxy, as the milky way is approx 100,000 light years across, but an object that is even 98 light hours across is hard to imagine. To put that in perspective, if you take the distance from the Earth to the Sun (93 million miles), and multiply it by 735 times, you will get the diameter of this black hole.

Have they tried measuring to see if there is any hawking radiation / what entropy it has?

This occurred 3.5 billion years ago. I wonder how large it is or if it still exist? Until we exceed light speed we are forced to live in the past.

In what ways would a large black be different ? Would its mass be denser than a smaller black hole, or would the mass be uniform, or would it vary from one black hole to another ? We can really only conjecture, because we haven't the means to inspect one up close yet, nor will we for a few centuries at least. Computer models aren't as good as the real thing.

& I share Okan's curiousity. It would be interesting to know EXACTLY what happened if & when 2 singularities like those in OJ287 collided, but we can only conjecture about it & build computer models of it. It's gonna be a LONG wait.....

I don't get how 2 singularities could be said to collide exactly.

Given the curvature of space/time within the two event horizons, would not the smaller singularity of the two eventually come to rest at some point on the rim of the larger's event horizon forming sort of a lobe sticking out? In normal matter the gravity would smooth it all out but time doesn't really flow beyond the event horizon, or if it does smooth out this would indicate that time does flow in black holes?

or would tidal forces somehow still apply (to a singularity which has no volume to stretch!?) and rip the smaller apart expressing it's mass as energy with some portion of it falling into the larger's event horizon and some other portion being emitted into the cosmos.

My guess is the whole thing would find the math rather difficult and elect simply to explode.

The "hawkings" ejections blow the theory of black holes sucking everything including light into itself away.

How about the "event horizon" as the limits of the carbon clouds surrounding a large object. Everything that goes in, burns up and eventually the carbon clouds grow into what we think of as a black hole. Just as the sun gets dimmer when a forest fire is nearby, so goes a black hole.

How fast is this second black hole traveling around this other larger one?

OJ287, as they call it, must necessarily be a constant source of gravitational wave as two Black Holes are revolving around each other. Has a gravity wave from this object been detected.

Holy Emperor! They found the eye of terror!!!!!

That's an artist's impression you morons.

When the 2 collided they triggered a gamma ray burst - which we will see some time in the next 10,000 years. Hopefully we are all dead when that happens cause we are on axis with their orbits and a ultra tight jet of gamma rays could cause havoc with life on earth.

When the 2 collided they triggered a gamma ray burst - which we will see some time in the next 10,000 years. Hopefully we are all dead when that happens cause we are on axis with their orbits and a ultra tight jet of gamma rays could cause havoc with life on earth.

The black holes are 3.5 billion light years away, so what we are observing is as old as that. They were to merge in 10K years, which means that at this point of time they have long merged.

this shit is bogus go reseach it again!!!! how the hell do u kno this and what type of radiation? gravitational?

well done it is big.....
anything els?

Hi peps.. has anyone ever seen the other side of a black hole??.. or have we only ever seen one front one..(or the back of one)(or are we looking at it side on..??)..does it have any depth to it?.. or is it just that... a hole.. and.. just for this example.. say you could not crush or alter the shape of a tennis ball in anyway, and I was to throw it into the "hole" what would become of it.where would it go.. would it get sucked in and spat out the back.. or????? now this might sound very ignorant to all you space cadets.... but if you believe you know the goings on in a black hole.. your kidding yourself...

Hi peps.. has anyone ever seen the other side of a black hole??.. or have we only ever seen one front one..(or the back of one)(or are we looking at it side on..??)..does it have any depth to it?.. or is it just that... a hole.. and.. just for this example.. say you could not crush or alter the shape of a tennis ball in anyway, and I was to throw it into the "hole" what would become of it.where would it go.. would it get sucked in and spat out the back.. or????? now this might sound very ignorant to all you space cadets.... but if you believe you know the goings on in a black hole.. your kidding yourself...

No one knows how this black holes established, but I know! first let me make some discussions ! As scientist have guest, there must millions of other civilizations in the universe. our solar system is young, about 4,5 billion years and now we are at the age of traveling to mars or sending sonars out of the solar system. our first radio waves must have reached millions of miles in the universe. The age of the universe is around 14 billion years. Well? there must be at least some civilizations that had established long before even our solar system was born! isn´t it? Well? where the hell is their radio and TV waves that our radio antennas in New Mexico cant receive? I tell you why, then you´ll find out how the black holes were established. The establishment of the first black hole began some billion years ago, even before our solar system was born. At that time there was a solar system almost like ours. at on one of their planets the creatures like humans lived. their civilization was almost exactly as ours. Until some of their scientist come to the idea to make a hand made black hole in their Switzerland country! Their Scientists, diots, assured every one that there was no hazard or danger for the people. BUT THEY WHERE WRONG!
That was how the black holes were made! The black hole absorbent power not only absorbed their universe, light,etc. but also the radio and TV waves! The big question is, even if it is not hazardous, why the hell is that necessary to do this thing? what hazard we get if we don´t do this?
Mohsen Kordi From Sweden

Did you know that if the black hole the earth would go thin, like a disk really .. then get sucked in within seconds into a hole as samll as 9 mm big !!!:)
woow :) and and and ..... that 10,000 years time we will merge or something haha :) what ?

why would they risk 12 billion peoples lives i think it kinda stupid

i agree whit Anthony but i think i know why they build that thing, as some of you may know 96% of the atoms are still not "found". but i think that they are trying to make/find anti mater. it is said it provides so much energy that it would make nuclear energy look like a small battery. my geuss is that they want to find that and use it to make boms or use it as fuel for space ships.
i just hope they will be carefull not to take mess whit things they dont know any thing off.

I reckon that this thing the swiss are doing is some sort of twisted plot to rule the world. What's going to happen is this, in ten weeks after tomorrow, when they have tested the 'particle collider' they will bang the hadrons together and beam the resulting energy into the centre of the 27 kilometer round circle. The beam will then go up to a sattelite, come back down to earth and strike a major city, destroying it utterly. The world's governments will be in dissaray and the evil geniuses at CERN will reveal themselves and rule the world. About 20 years after this, a resistance movement will start up and depose the evil geniuses that have now become tyrants. This will begin a new age of peace and prosperity for the earth. Then, someone will have the stupid idea to actually DO the experiment that the geniuses said they would do, using the now disused large hadron collider underneath switzerland, the resulting explosion will cause a HUGE black hole and the universe will end.

That was a joke, please do not take it seriously

bloody hell thts a big black hole

tbh from reading most of your stuff heres on question just one that id really like one of yous to answer
all these theries and shit and all this oh its about this size and we've calculated can any of you actually tell me

with all these theries ppl said they proved how did they prove them i mean yea ok i know like you can measure particles that are on other planets and on our on and yea they pretty much can say oh well that planet must have such and such and such but from common sense how the fuck can you measure something with nothing ? i mean how in the name of well science can you actually measure a black hole with just light and give it a size by comparing it to other shit that tbh ARENT the same and yea i might be like not to smart or anything but i understand some of it to me its just maths and physics and i love areguments about space and shit but like wth ppl

ps btw
heres another question if lights travels and you can take pictures from your room of the stars and shit then why is it when you finally get into space the only light you see is that of the planets either close to you or "close" as in visible with the naked eye and yet between that is complete darkness

how do we know it's the biggest? what if it's only the biggest we ever found? o:

there are so many wonders in the universe... i'm scared that one day a black hole will form around our earth and swallow it whole O.o then again, what do i know? I'm just a kid, haha. xD

i think we will all be dead by the tym d black hole comes to us. even our great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandkids wont b alive to c this

omg this is the biggest concentration of dorks ive ever seen

There are a number of ways things can be measured. We can not only measure by relative measurements of other things in space, but also by their gravitational pull and nearby orbits of stars-planetary bodies that we DO understand pretty well. There are equations that, from the weight of an object in space, what kind of gravitational pull it would have, can determine how wide and how strong it would be, and they can also determine the approximate shape the orbits would be. By the same token, if they know things about the orbit of nearby object and how strong its pull is on other planetary bodies, the equation can be worked with the size as the variable. We have been wrong before; remember, at one time the popular belief was the Earth was flat. However, the sciences are getting more and more precise. The fact that it is also fitting Einstein's equation and current science is further proof that it is within the ballpark of what we believe the size to be at this time. There are a lot of factors that go into measuring planetary bodies-it is not just approximations and guess work. You can read some articles about this to gain a little more information on the subject. Space.com has a lot of good articles such as this one, http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mystery_monday_031124.html, as well as NASA's website and astronomy.com. There are a lot of good resources.

As far as light goes, light waves, just like sound waves, not only travel, but are also spread out and absorbed, especially when the light is a regular bulb like the one in a camera and not precise and super bright like a laser. I'm not quite sure what you were asking, Jester. Were you asking why we can't see the small lights back from Earth in outer space, or why can't we see stars in space?? Or were you asking about distant planets?? If you were asking about stars, you can see stars in space. Go to this article to read up on the subject, question 5: http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/qa_star.html#starsp. Maybe you were confused by the moonwalk pictures, but this is only an illusion created, due to the fact that the moon surface and the astronauts were so bright and caused the camera not to pick up the stars. If you are asking about distant planets, planets do not have their own light, they are only a reflection of other light sources; other stars like our sun. When comparing the amount of light that is put off by a blazing sun compared to a lowly reflective planet, one can see why it would be so dim in comparison and would be harder to spot without the use of a high-powered telescope.

It is the biggest black hole in the universe that we are currently aware of. As far as a black hole swallowing Earth, it is likely that black holes exist throughout space and possibly even small ones on Earth according to some scientists (there are even theories about the Bermuda Triangle/Dragon's Triangle possibly being a small black hole and small white hole). It is unlikely that a black hole big enough to swallow Earth is anywhere close enough to our solar system to do any harm any time in the near future. We would know WAY before it's even close to happening, and it is nothing you would have to be concerned about in this existence and most likely about the existence of any descendants that would even know you ever even existed because it would be so far in the future. Anything is possible, but it is certainly not probable.

Plus, everyone dies sometime-death by black hole sounds like a pretty awesome way to go.

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