An artist's illustration shows a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun at the center released by NASA on February 27, 2013.
An artist's illustration shows a supermassive black hole with millions to billions times the mass of our sun at the center released by NASA on February 27, 2013.  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout/Reuters

Scientists Find a Black Hole 12 Billion Times More Massive Than the Sun

Feb 26, 2015

A team of international astronomers has discovered a black hole of almost unimaginable proportions.

At 12 billion times more massive than the sun, it challenges current cosmological thinking, reports Reuters.

“Our discovery presents a serious challenge to theories about the black hole growth in the early universe," lead researcher Xue-Bing Wu for Peking University, China told the news agency.

The enormous object was formed 900 million years after the Big Bang, and scientists are stumped as to how a black hole of that size could have grown in such a relatively short time.

"Current theory is for a limit to how fast a black hole can grow, but this black hole is too large for that theory,” said fellow researcher Dr. Fuyan Bian, of Australian National University.

Not only is the black hole the biggest ever seen but also it’s at the center of the largest quasar ever discovered. (Quasars are the brightest and most powerful objects in the universe, with this one emitting huge amounts of energy and light as matter is ripped apart by the black hole at its core.)

For comparison, the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, has only about four to five million times the mass of the Sun.

The black hole was discovered by a team of global scientists at Peking University, China, tasked with mapping the northern sky, and their findings were published in the journal Nature.

[Reuters]

Read next: This Is How Incredible (and Terrifying) Space Looks in Virtual Reality

Snapshots of the Heavens: Amazing Astronomy Photos

The aurora borealis traces the shifting patterns of the Earth's magnetic field, creating a spectacular midwinter show in Nordland Fylke, Norway. The green light in this image comes from oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere, which have been energized by subatomic particles from the solar wind.
The aurora borealis traces the shifting patterns of the Earth's magnetic field, creating a spectacular midwinter show in Nordland Fylke, Norway. The green light in this image comes from oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere, which have been energized by subatomic particles from the solar wind.Arild Heitmann
The aurora borealis traces the shifting patterns of the Earth's magnetic field, creating a spectacular midwinter show in Nordland Fylke, Norway. The green light in this image comes from oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere, which have been energized by subatomic particles from the solar wind.
Part of the Veil Nebula, the Witch's Broom is the glowing debris from a supernova explosion. It's what's left over after the violent death of a massive star. Although the supernova occurred several thousand years ago, the gaseous debris is still expanding outwards, producing this vast cloud-like structure.
Dark mountain peaks frame two distinct lightscapes - the distant glow of towns and villages, and the majestic star fields of The Milky Way. Making the most of an August night, the photographer got this shot after trekking out to the Uludag National Park near his hometown of Bursa, Turkey.
Galileo's Planetary Puzzle Has Finally Been Solved
The Elephant's Trunk seems to uncoil from the dusty nebula on the right of the image, its tip curled around a cavity carved out by the radiation produced by young stars. Capturing a deep sky object like this takes skill and painstaking attention to detail and is a great achievement for a newcomer to astrophotography.
This long-exposure image contrasts the regular arcs of star trails with the chaotic swarming of fireflies - celestial, natural and manmade light are captured in a single photograph.
The photographer came across two hikers lost in the wilderness of Yosemite late one evening in July 2011. He captured this image of the tiny figures in a small bubble of torchlight set within a vast, pitch black forest beneath the immense dome of the sky. It highlights the wonder, beauty and awe of astronomy.
A beautifully sharp and artfully framed detail of the Moon. The terminator which separates the daytime and night-time parts of the Moon is aligned with the bottom edge of the photograph. The Sun's light shines at a low angle onto the surface of the Moon just above this line, showing the contrast between smooth maria and rugged crater rims to the best advantage.
Earth and space are evenly weighted in this wonderfully framed image of a Californian landscape beneath the Milky Way. The young photographer has chosen a view of an ancient bristlecone pine which is over 4,000 years old, and whose sloping trunk and gnarled branches provide perfect counterpoint to the edge-on view of the starry disc and knotted structure of our galaxy.
Taken in Nagano, Japan, this image shows Orion, Taurus and the Pleiades as the backdrop to an eerie frozen landscape. Though the stars appear to gleam with a cold, frosty light, bright blue stars like the Pleiades can be as hot as 30,000 degrees Celsius.
The aurora borealis traces the shifting patterns of the Earth's magnetic field, creating a spectacular midwinter show in
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