Behold! The Massive Black Hole You Can See From Your Backyard

Behold! The Massive Black Hole You Can See From Your Backyard
Image: iStock

Scientists have discovered a black hole in your backyard.

Ah, ahem, sorry, I mean a black hole that you could observe from your backyard. I’m sure you’d already be aware if there was a black hole in your backyard, but you probably didn’t know that a well-equipped astronomer in a backyard could spot a recently discovered black hole.

The newly discovered black hole is rapidly growing, with a visual magnitude of 14.5 (AKA the measurement of how bright an object is as observed from Earth). It consumes one Earth every second and shines 7,000 times brighter than all of the light from our own galaxy.

This translates to the black hole being observable by backyard scientists, provided that they are equipped correctly with a “decent telescope” and a very dark night.

This black hole carries the mass of three billion suns. Similar sized black holes stopped growing so quickly billions of years ago, according to the Australian National University press release.

“Astronomers have been hunting for objects like this for more than 50 years. They have found thousands of fainter ones, but this astonishingly bright one had slipped through unnoticed,” said Doctor Christopher Onken, the lead researcher of the paper. He described the black hole as a “very large, unexpected needle in a haystack.”

“Now we want to know why this one is different — did something catastrophic happen? Perhaps two big galaxies crashed into each other, funnelling a whole lot of material onto the black hole to feed it.”

The discovery was made as part of the SkyMapper project, a project led by the Australian National University and the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, in collaboration with seven other Aussie universities. The goal is to create a digital survey of the southern sky.

“We are fairly confident this record will not be broken. We have essentially run out of sky where objects like this could be hiding,” added Associate Professor Christian Wolf, a co-author of the project.

“This black hole is such an outlier that while you should never say never, I don’t believe we will find another one like this.”

You can read the paper in arXiv.