• Scientists have measured how massive the fastest-growing black hole in the universe is
  • It is 34 billion times the mass of the Sun and 8,000 more massive than the black hole at the center of Milky Way
  • According to the scientists, J2157 devours an equivalent of one Sun each day

Scientists have determined the mass of the fastest-growing black hole as well as how much it actually consumes in a day. According to them, it is the biggest black hole from the early universe to be weighed.

It was in 2018 when a team of scientists discovered the giant black hole dubbed J2157. Back then, the team described J2157 as a kind of "monster" that, if was at the center of our solar system, would make life on Earth impossible because of the x-rays emanating from it.

"If we had this monster sitting at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon. It would appear as an incredibly bright pin-point star that would almost wash out all of the stars in the sky," study co-author Dr. Chris Wolf had said in a news release then.

Now, the team has calculated exactly how massive J2157 is using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile. According to the scientists, J2157 is actually 34 billion times the mass of our Sun, and consumes an equivalent of one Sun each day. By comparison, the black hole at the center of our galaxy is just about four million times larger than the Sun.

This means that J2157 is about 8,000 times bigger than the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. In fact, according to study co-author Dr. Christopher Onken, if the black hole at the center of the Milky Way wanted to become as big as J2157, it would have to consume two thirds of the stars in the galaxy.

"We're seeing it at a time when the universe was only 1.2 billion years old, less than 10% of its current age," Dr. Onken said, according to a news release from the Australian National University. "It's the biggest black hole that's been weighed in this early period of the Universe."

How it got so massive so early in the life of the universe is still unknown, but scientists are eager to find out.

"With such an enormous black hole, we're also excited to see what we can learn about the galaxy in which it's growing ," Dr. Onken said. "Is this galaxy one of the behemoths of the early Universe, or did the black hole just swallow up an extraordinary amount of its surroundings? We'll have to keep digging to figure that out."

The study is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Black Hole
Image: Illustration of a quasar surrounded by 'clouds.' Nima Abkenar/Australian National University