Scientists have just discovered a black hole, and it's just a little bit big. At a mass equal to 40 billion suns, the object is one of the largest black holes ever discovered.
The newly discovered black hole, found in a distant galaxy called Holmberg 15A, is far bigger than our solar system.
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Around 700 million light-years away from us, Holmberg 15A is a supergiant elliptical galaxy that sits at the center of the Abell 85 galaxy cluster.
The black hole at the center of Holmberg 15A is the biggest one to have been found by tracking the movements of the stars around it, as Science Alert reports.
The new research — available on arXiv — has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal for peer review.
"We use orbit-based, axisymmetric Schwarzschild models to analyze the stellar kinematics of Holm 15A from new high-resolution, wide-field spectral observations obtained with MUSE at the VLT. We find a supermassive black hole (SMBH) with a mass of (4.0 ± 0.80) × 1010 solar masses at the center of Holm 15A," the researchers wrote in the paper.
"This is the most massive black hole with a direct dynamical detection in the local Universe."
Ultra-massive space object
While the largest black hole ever detected is the quasar TON 618, which is estimated to be 66 billion times the mass of the Sun, the Holmberg 15A isn't too far behind and is still enormous.
As a reference, Pluto is approximately 39.5 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. The heliopause - the boundary where the Sun's solar wind is stopped by interstellar space - is estimated to be roughly 123 AU.
The estimated mass of Holm 15A*, as per the new research paper, would give it a Schwarzschild radius of approximately 790 AU.
The size is gargantuan. Indeed, a space giant has been discovered.