Though black holes are constantly offering scientists new space discoveries, astrophysicists are reeling after finding the largest black hole ever measured, per Astronomy. It was calculated as being 40 billion times the sun's mass. It is so massive that another way to think about the size of this black hole is that it is equal to around two-thirds of the mass of all the stars in the Milky Way.
The black hole resides in Holm 15A, the brightest galaxy inside the Abell 85 cluster. It is a whopping 700 million light years from Earth.
The study, lead by Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics scientists Jens Thomas and Roberto Saglia, first took a look at Holm 15A after realizing the center of the galaxy was fairly dim despite its overall brightness. The team relied on data from the MUSE spectrometer on the VLT and the USM Wendelstein Observatory, located in the Bavarian Alps.
"Just imagining a black hole that huge is so cool," Thomas said.
"There are only a few dozen direct mass measurements of supermassive black holes, and never before has it been attempted at such a distance, but we already had some idea of the size of the Black Hole in this particular galaxy, so we tried it," he added via a press release on the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft website.
Fortunately, their hunch paid off, and now they can boast to finding the largest black hole in the known universe.
"This is several times larger than expected from indirect measurements, such as the stellar mass or the velocity dispersion of the stars," added Sagliga, also via the press release.
Part of the reason that this supermassive black hole was discovered was because of a new way to measure the mass of distant black holes. Previously, the size had been measured off the motion of stars close to the galactic center. However, scientists have discovered that there is a relationship between central stellar surface brightness -- essentially light -- and stellar mass density.
Astrophysicists currently believe that this is because massive black holes both eject stars during their collision and suck up so much gas that new stars have less fuel to form, leading to a dimmer universe.
That said, this new way to measure black hole size may lead to even larger black holes discovered, and many scientists are already saying that it is only a matter of time before an even larger one is discovered.
Meanwhile, on the flip side, scientists are also baffled after discovering "mini" black holes. Though the term is relative, new discoveries show black holes smaller than scientific consensus previously thought possible, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.