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Astronomers Just Discovered a ‘Supermassive’ Black Hole. ‘Hard to Comprehend How Big This Thing Is.’

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A team of astronomers at Durham University in England have discovered a “supermassive black hole” (SMBH) over 30 billion times the size of the sun.

“Even as an astronomer, I find it hard to comprehend how big this thing is,” Dr. James Nightingale told BBC Radio Newcastle.

“If you look at the night sky and count up all the stars and planets you can see and put them in a single point, it would be a fraction of a percent the size of this black hole. This black hole is bigger than the majority of galaxies in the universe.”

The ultramassive black hole was the first to be measured using a new technology called gravitational lensing. A foreground galaxy bends the light from a more distant object and magnifies it making it possible to measure the mass of supermassive black holes.

Gravitational lensing enables astronomers to discover black holes never seen before.

“This approach could let us detect many more black holes beyond our local Universe and reveal how these exotic objects evolved further back in cosmic time.”

Related: A Massive Hole In the Sun May Cause Dazzling Light Show Here On Earth

What is a black hole?

A black hole is an area in space where the gravitational pull is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. Black holes are formed from the remnants of massive stars that have collapsed in on themselves, creating a very dense and compact object.

Black holes play a significant role in galaxy formation and evolution. Supermassive black holes are thought to exist at the centers of most galaxies. The black hole discovered by Durham scientists is in the center of Abell 1201. The gravitational pull of these black holes can affect the movement of stars and gas around them, shaping the galaxy’s structure and influencing the formation of new stars.

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