We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Ferocious Black Hole Found

Shocking size for its age is unlike others from the same time period.

By Liz Kruesi
Nov 30, 2015 6:00 AMNov 14, 2019 9:23 PM
Zhaoyu Li/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Misti Mountain Observatory


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Sometimes black holes just don’t follow the rules. Astronomers announced in February that they found a black hole much bigger than it has any right to be — 12 billion times our sun’s mass, a shocking weight considering its age. The finding challenges theories of how black holes form.

When Xue-Bing Wu of Beijing’s Peking University and colleagues wanted to find the universe’s oldest black holes, they looked for bright old galaxies, since most large galaxies have a central supermassive black hole. When a black hole pulls in nearby stars and gas clumps, the material circles the dark object, like water around a drain. Friction in this disk heats the material, which then glows.

Wu’s team searched archived images of the sky for bright light sources, and after finding a promising one, called J0100+2802, they focused on it with five telescopes. Once Wu’s team confirmed that the black hole was indeed ancient — formed just 900 million years after the birth of the universe — they discovered its outsized weight by analyzing its light.

Zhaoyu Li/Yunnan Observatory

This supersized black hole is about 10 times heavier and brighter than others discovered from the same time period, says Wu, suggesting it grew extremely rapidly. Theorists are now trying to figure out how.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.