Black hole is a record breaker

Astronomers have identified the biggest known black hole in the universe. It is 6.4 billion times more massive than the Sun and lurking 60 million light-years away at the centre of a giant galaxy.

M87 photographed by the Hubble Space TelescopeThe galaxy, called Messier 87 or M87, is a popular target for backyard stargazers in the constellation of Virgo and was suspected to contain a supermassive black hole.

Now one of the world’s most powerful computers has worked out that the cosmic cannibal is up to three times more massive than thought.

The discovery, made using a computer at the University of Texas, in Austin, was revealed at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in California.

Space scientists used a telescope to measured the speeds of stars orbiting within the galaxy. This data was used to calculate the powerful pull and size of the monster black hole.

Last month we reported on the voracious appetite of a similar supermassive black hole in another galaxy that is gobbling up the equivalent of two planet Earths a day. And a 16-year study has confirmed the existence of a similar monster black hole at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy.

Picture: M87 photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA/ESA)

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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