‘Behemoth’ Black Hole Discovered By NASA

A “behemoth” black hole was announced by NASA on Wednesday. According to the official statement, the supermassive black hole, which is located “in a sparsely populated area of the universe,” was confirmed using images collected from the Hubble Space Telescope and Hawaii’s Gemini Telescope. Although black holes are not uncommon, astronomers said their latest discovery is unusually large.

As discussed by NASA, a black hole is a point in space with exceptionally strong gravitational pull. The phenomenon is caused by massive amounts of matter, which are confined to a specifically small space.

Although larger black holes are generally associated with collapsing or dying stars, astronomers believe some black holes originated when the universe was formed.

Black holes are generally classified according to mass, which can range from one atom to “more than one million suns.”

Stellar black holes are between 20 and one million times the mass of the sun. Black holes with more than one million times the mass of the sun are called supermassive black holes.

In comparison, the behemoth black hole announced by NASA is estimated to have a mass that is more than 17 billion suns.

Black holes are called black holes because the gravitational pull is so strong that no light can escape. Therefore, they are not visible without special telescopes that detect the speed at which gasses, stars, and other matter are pulled toward a specific point.

Although the current largest known black hole has the mass of 21 billion suns, the new discovery is significant because it is located in a sparsely populated area.

University of California-Berkeley astronomer Chung-Pei Ma, who is credited with discovering the behemoth black hole, said larger black holes are far more likely to occur in heavily populated galaxy clusters.

However, Ma said the latest discovery suggests “there are more monster black holes out there that don’t live in a skyscraper in Manhattan, but in a tall building somewhere in the Midwestern plains.”

It is unclear how the behemoth black hole was formed. However, NASA suggests it may be the product of two black holes colliding.

“When two galaxies merge, their central black holes settle into the core of the new galaxy and orbit each other… gravitational interaction causes the black holes to slowly move closer together, eventually merging to form an even larger black hole.”

The scientists believe the newly formed behemoth black hole continued to build mass as it absorbed stars and other matter, eventually reaching epic proportions.

Although black holes have been the subject of urban legends, which suggest Earth is in danger of being sucked into and thereby destroyed by a black hole, NASA said it is unlikely.

As the sun, Earth, and other planets in our solar system have their own gravitational pull, even a behemoth black hole would simply orbit within our solar system without causing any serious issues.

Other legends suggest the sun itself could collapse and form a black hole. However, NASA explains the sun simply is not big enough to form a black hole even if it were to collapse.

Although the behemoth black hole sounds intimidating, astronomers confirmed it is 200 million light years away.

Its discovery will not have any impact on Earth, but it is expected to have quite an impact on the scientific world.

Astronomers believe their findings could open doors to the discovery of more behemoth black holes in other sparsely populated galaxies throughout the universe.

[Image via Jurik Peter/Shutterstock]

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