At 40 billion times the weight of the Sun, this black hole accounts for 2.5 percent of the mass of the entire Milky Way galaxy.
At about 330,000 times the weight of planet Earth, the size of the Sun is unfathomable. And at 40 billion times the weight of the Sun, the biggest black hole ever directly measured in the known universe makes our solar system’s central star look tiny.
The newly-discovered black hole — located in the Holm 15A galaxy of cluster Abell 85, about 700 million light-years away — is not only the, it’s also the most distant. Researchers detailed these findings in
Scientists used Chile’s aptly-named Very Large Telescope and Germany’s Wendelstein Observatory to assess the black hole’s gargantuan size, which is around 2.5 percent of the mass of our entire Milky Way galaxy. This assessment is all the more astonishing because it constitutes a direct measurement of a black hole, as opposed to an indirect one.
While scientists have found what is believed to be a heavier black hole inside the TON 618 quasar, this estimate is based on indirect measurement of other variables that are correlated with a black hole’s mass. However, the Holm 15A black hole was measured directly: via assessments of stars and gasses affected by the black hole itself.
“There are only a few dozen direct mass measurements of supermassive black holes, and never before has it been attempted at such distance,” said Jens Thomas of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, the new study’s lead author.
“But we already had some idea of the size of the black hole in this particular galaxy, so we tried it.”