Astronomers discover one of biggest black holes ever recorded

A novel method that could help astronomers find thousands more of the ravenous celestial beasts in the future years has been used to find one of the biggest black holes ever seen.

According to a recent research, the ultramassive black hole, one of only four ever seen, has a mass greater than 30 billion times that of the Sun.

The gravitational lensing phenomenon, which causes light coming from a faraway galaxy to appear to enlarge and bend inwards, revealing the existence of a dark giant, has been used for the first time to detect a black hole.

Lead author of the research and Durham University astronomer James Nightingale told AFP that the procedure was "like shining light through the base of a wine glass."

He said it was "very fortunate" that the light from a galaxy in the far reaches of the cosmos, about two billion light years away, came so near to this black hole.

Given the various methods and uncertainties involved, he continued, it was impossible to say for sure whether it was even the largest black hole ever observed.

At the center of galaxies, supermassive black holes use their powerful gravitational force to eat stars like dust specks, not even permitting light to escape.

Previous black holes of this magnitude have been seen by monitoring the orbital speed of stars that pass by them or by observing the enormous quantity of light that their voracious devouring emits at the edges.

However, these methods are only effective for planets that are near to the Earth.

- The environment will "dramatically change"

Astronomers can "discover black holes in the other 99 percent of galaxies that are currently inaccessible" thanks to gravitational lensing, according to Nightingale.

There are presently about 500 gravitational foci that are known, and we now know that at least one of them is a supermassive black hole.

However, Nightingale warned that "the landscape is about to dramatically change."

By building a massive, high-resolution map of the cosmos, the European orbit Agency's Euclid mission, which is scheduled to launch into orbit in July, will usher in the "big data era" for the study of black holes, according to him.

Nightingale added that 100,000 new gravity foci might be discovered by Euclid in the upcoming six years, which could lead to the discovery of thousands of previously undiscovered black holes.

The most recent revelation was supported by computer models and Hubble Space Telescope images, which also helped the researchers rule out alternative hypotheses like an excess of dark matter.

According to Nightingale, the enormous magnitude is also compatible with what would be predicted for a black hole at the center of its massive host galaxy.

The galaxy, known as Abell 1201, has a total mass that is more than a trillion times that of the Sun, so it should have an especially massive black hole at its center.

On Tuesday, the research was released in the astronomy publication Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.