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A newly discovered black hole with a mass of 17 billion suns, absorbing another one every day. Its disk, 7 light-years in diameter.

A newly discovered black hole with a mass of 17 billion suns, absorbing another one every day. Its disk, 7 light-years in diameter.
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The sun has a mass approximately 330,000 times greater than that of the Earth, but this figure is overshadowed by black holes at the centers of galaxies. A team of astronomers recently discovered the fastest-growing one: a black hole with a mass of 17 billion suns, which is growing at a rate of one solar mass per day.

This black hole is actually a quasar, which is an actively feeding black hole. When quasars accrete matter — that is, when their strong gravitational fields attract gas, dust, and other cosmic debris — they emit a huge amount of radiation, which can be detected by a number of Earth telescopes, as Gizmodo reports.

The quasar is named J0529-4351, has a redshift of 3.9, indicating an age of over 12 billion years. The team of astronomers observed it in the optical and near-infrared ranges using the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile, a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

We have found the fastest-growing black hole known to date. This object is the brightest object in the known Universe.

— Christian Wolf, astronomer from the Australian National University and lead author of the study.

Using the brightness of this quasar as an indicator of its accretion speed — because the brighter the quasar, the more mass is being attracted to the black hole — the team determined that the quasar attracts approximately 413 solar masses per year, or about 1.13 suns per day.

J0529-4351 was first noticed by stellar observatories back in 1980, but at that time astronomers did not know it was a quasar. When objects appear brighter than any known quasar, models may interpret them as stars relatively close, rather than giant distant objects. J0529-4351 is 500 trillion times brighter than our Sun, and the accretion disk producing this light has a diameter of seven light years.

The object, previously thought to be a star due to its brightness, is actually an extremely bright and much more complex object, located much deeper in space. Future telescopes, including ESO's own "Extremely Large Telescope," successor to the Very Large Telescope, may provide a better study of it.

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