Massive Black Hole Stumps Scientists

Its mass equals 17B suns, turning previous theory on its head
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2012 6:30 AM CST
Massive Black Hole Stumps Scientists
Scientists have discovered an enormous black hole.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – An enormous, newly discovered black hole has scientists questioning what they thought they knew about black holes to begin with. Usually, supermassive black holes make up about 0.1% of the mass of the stars at a galaxy's center, known as a stellar bulge. But in this case, the black hole accounts for 59% of the mass, the Los Angeles Times reports, a far cry from the previous record of 11%. Researchers seeking huge black holes were browsing galaxies through a powerful telescope, expecting the biggest black holes to appear in the biggest galaxies.

Instead, they found "a very big black hole for a small galaxy—that's the most surprising part," says an astrophysicist. Indeed, it boasts the mass of 17 billion suns. "We were looking at it and we said, 'That's got to be wrong,'" says the co-author of the study that documented the massive black hole. "So we kind of analyzed it to death." It's believed that black holes can only handle a certain amount of matter before shooting it out, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Looking at so many examples, "of course we're going to find the weirdest weirdos out there," the scientist notes. But if such giant black holes are out there, scientists will need to rethink their galactic theories. "This isn't even the tip of the iceberg," says the co-author. "This is a snowflake on top of the tip of the iceberg." (Read more space stories.)

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