back to article Astronomers find biggest black hole, 17 BILLION times the size of Sun

A team at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has found the largest recorded black hole, one that swallows an unprecedented amount of its home galaxy, potentially requiring a rethink in our understanding of galactic formation. The huge hole has been spotted in the heart of the disk system NGC 1277, a smallish galaxy about …


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  1. miknik

    "Time for a rethink" suggests Dr. Karl

    Was that quote regarding his thoughts on black holes, or something they picked up at his hairdressers?

    1. Allison Park

      Re: "Time for a rethink" suggests Dr. Karl

      I saw the "click to enlarge" link on Karl's picture and got scared.

      What happens when two galaxies collide, actually not much since there is so much distance between the stars.

      But if the black hole is is on the right trajectory it can swallow up most of the other galaxy and possibly merge the two black holes.

      I am curious who funds this work? It is tuition or part of our $16B of debt?

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "Time for a rethink" suggests Dr. Karl

        "I saw the "click to enlarge" link on Karl's picture and got scared."

        I don't blame you, it's scary even at normal size

      2. JDX Gold badge

        Re: "Time for a rethink" suggests Dr. Karl

        What happens if two black holes collide?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          What happens if two black holes collide?

          You cant have 2 holes colliding, they become 1 bigger hole soon as they meet

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: What happens if two black holes collide?

            Define 'meet'. Isn't that the same as 'collide'?

    2. The Infamous Grouse

      I'm sure I saw that guy in 'Independence Day'. Apparently they don't let them out much.

      1. Mako
        Thumb Up

        Ah, thank you!

        I was racking my brain trying to think who he looked like.

  2. That Awful Puppy

    Best use of 'goatse' ever

    Carry on.

    1. Nextweek

      Re: Best use of 'goatse' ever

      Best use of an email service?

      I don't get it...

      1. Z-Eden

        Re: Best use of 'goatse' ever

        To help you understand, just google goatse and switch to image view - that should explain everything...

        Heh Heh Heh

  3. Stephen 27

    The bloody egg

    Looses all credibility using the "Chicken and egg" causality dilemma. It's the Egg! The modern chicken came from an egg laid by its predecessor, a chicken like bird.

    Now. Do black holes spawn galaxies, or do galaxies spawn black holes? Perhaps black holes are formed early in the universe and swirl up the soup of matter created by the big bang and form galaxies?

    Probably not, but just putting it out there.....

    1. Ragarath

      Re: The bloody egg

      But the chicken and egg scenario does not just relate to that single first chicken.

      You said that a chicken like bird laid the egg so it came first. Well, was this bird born or from an egg? The precursor to this bird, was that born or from an egg. Keep going. That is what it refers to.

      You make a great point regarding the galaxies though. Were black holes there from the bang or were they formed. Perhaps they even both occurred at the same time.

      1. John Brookes

        Re: The bloody egg

        Firstly, no, that's not what it refers to in the minds of the majority of people.

        Secondly - if it did - then it's still the egg, unless you're arguing that the modern chicken is the ur-bird from which all other birds are descended.....

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: The bloody egg

      Its all circular.

      I would imagine that if you have enough mass concentrated at the center of a black hole, it will explode.

      (Boom) or rather a Big Bang.

      Of course at that point, time and space would cease to have meaning in the conventional sense....

  4. stucs201

    But its not black

    Picture is definately mostly orange, with a white bit in the middle.

    I'm getting it, I'll be out of here if I can reach escape velocity, hopefully I'm not inside the Schwarzschild radius already.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: But its not black

      It's ok. With a black hole that size you should get a great view of the singularity before you're spaghettified out of existence.

  5. maccy

    but its not black: definately mostly orange, with a white bit in the middle

    that's because it's an inverse fried egg, which probably solves the chicken and egg dilemma in a very tasty way.

  6. YARR

    Result of galaxy collision?

    What if two smaller galaxies rotating in the same plane collided with each other? Couldn't that mutually feed a lot of mass into the black holes at each other's centres before coalescing into one galaxy?

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Result of galaxy collision?

      Maybe something like that. You have to kill a lot of angular momentum so that most of the galaxies' matter can fall into the centre. Maybe two contra-rotating galaxies with nearly equal but opposite angular momentum approaching each other very slowly (relatively speaking) down a common axis of rotation, leading to a merged one with almost no angular momentum?

      I imagine that the astronomers are busy running lots of simulations, trying to work out how it happened, or whether it's physically impossible (under current accepted physics) rather than merely unlikely. The biggest anything is almost always unlikely. and there are a LOT of observable galaxies.

  7. annodomini2


    The event horizon would stretch beyond Neptune's orbit

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Supposedly

      Someone remind me... once you're beyond the event horizon you can never get back but does that also mean you can't escape getting closer and closer, or could you enter into orbit of the singularity inside the EH?

      1. annodomini2

        Re: Supposedly

        Inside the Event Horizon the laws of physics break down, no one really knows.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Supposedly

          No they don't. As Hawking says in ABHOT, you wouldn't even know you'd crossed the event horizon.

          1. annodomini2

            Re: Supposedly

            Ah sorry yes, inside the singularity the laws break down.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All used for a game of bar billiards created by the gods?

    1. stucs201

      Yeah. Only scored thirty points too.

  9. Martin Huizing

    That guys' pic...

    Best photo of a super star yet!

    Astronomy is actually getting cool! (again)

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    No! Bad! BAD REG!

    "17 billion times the size of Sun" should evidently read "17 billion times the mass of Sun".

    The SIZE of black hole can be conveniently (but only approximately) described with the Schwarzschild radius (which, amazingly, depends linearly on the mass, instead of, you know, only on the cube root of the mass).

    We have:

    3.38147 × 10^40 kilograms x 1.485 x 10^-27 m/kg ~ 5 x 10^13 m ~ 333 Astronomical Units.

    That's about 12 times the orbit of Pluto. Damn.

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: No! Bad! BAD REG!

      Sorry, I am going to need that answer expressed in Olympic swimming pools.

      1. annodomini2

        Re: No! Bad! BAD REG!

        Volume of a sphere = 4/3*Pi*r^3

        1 AU = 149,597,871 km

        r = 333AU = 49,816,091,043 km

        Olympic Swimming pool volume = >2,500m^3

        Volume = 5.1784233056683328044188335230758 * 10^32 km^3 = 5.1784233056683328044188335230758 * 10^41m3 =

        2.0713693222673331217675334092303 *10^38 Olympic Swimming pools.

        1. James Micallef Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: No! Bad! BAD REG!

          Geez, that would take a while to swim across!!

          1. johnck

            Re: No! Bad! BAD REG!

            Swim? no think of the amoutn of beer it would hold. That would make for one hell of a party, or just pre dinner drinks if you ever go caving

          2. Nigel 11

            Re: No! Bad! BAD REG!

            Not very long at all, to swim half-way across. After that all bets are off. Just maybe, ...

            There was a young lady named Bright // Who could travel much faster than light. // She took off one day, // In a relative way, // And returned on the previous night.

        2. The Serpent

          Re: No! Bad! BAD REG!

          That number is pleasingly large

  11. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    It's the caption's fault

    "A really, really, really big hole (click to enlarge)"




  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who's afraid of the big, black hole

    The big, black hole

    The big, black hole?

    Who's afraid of the big, black hole

    Tra la la la la

  13. Allison Park

    chalk board

    anyone else notice their is a diagram on the chalk board that looks a lot like a penis?

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    It's great to see some hard science from Texas

    It's refreshing after all the religious who-harr produced by Texans during the election.

    Until next time...

  15. P. Lee Silver badge

    The Cygnus and the Palomino have been spotted?

    Let's go and investigate!

  16. Adam 1 Silver badge


    I guess that really sucks ...

  17. Dave 150

    A really, really, really big hole

    "(click to enlarge)" Don't you think it's big enough already?

  18. IdontneednostinkinHANDLE

    Black hole at the center of our galaxy . . .

    . . is only 4 million solar masses, not 4 billion. Still, Sgr A* manages to keep a lot of astronomers employed.

  19. Ragarath

    Dark Matter

    Does this new discovery change the amount of mass they attribute to dark matter? If some (maybe a lot) of black holes are bigger than they thought?

    Please someone that knows more about how they caculated the mass the universe should be let me know.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Dark Matter

      Well, it's hard to calculate the mass-density of the observable universe exactly, but it's in a very narrow band of all the possibilities. Slightly higher, and the universe would have collapsed back into a singularity (or at least a very small very hot entity) so long ago, that planets and life could never have formed. Slightly lower, and the universe would have expanded so far and so fast that there would be no stars, galaxies, planets or life, just a very thin soup of particles very close to absolute zero.

      Hence to the weak antrhopic principle (for atheists) or the hand of $DEITY (for the religious).

      Black holes betray their presence by their gravitational influence on the things around them. It's doubtless the odd nature of this galaxy that lets us deduce that the black hole at its centre is a monster, just as "ordinary" galaxies let us deduce the presence of an "ordinary" galactic-centre-sized black hole. So unless monster black holes can be lurking all alone in intergalactic voids (how?), they can't be the dark matter we are looking for. And anyway, we need a dark matter halo to make gravitationally bound galaxies work at all, and then there's the Bullet galaxy where two galaxies have collided head-on and one can observe the separation of the formerly-associated dark matter.

  20. Nigel 11

    Biggest != Typical

    Shouldn't one always expect the biggest of anything to be an outlier, an anomaly, a bit of a freak? Unless it's difficult to concoct any scenario leading to the formation of this monster, one should surely assume that the observable universe is large enough for even very unlikely things to have happened somewhere.

    And of course, the biggest is also the one shouting loudest for our attention. (Well, apart from Gamma-ray bursts, whatever they may be! )

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Biggest != Typical

      "What's more, the discovery doesn’t seem to be a freak of nature. The team surveying black holes has found five other galaxies with similar characteristics"

      "Eight months ago, the team discovered a black hole that could be as large as 30 billion solar masses (though that's unconfirmed)."

      Source - The "Astronomers find biggest black hole, 17 BILLION times the size of Sun" Article.

  21. WalterAlter

    Not Einstein Again...

    Goofballs don't even know what gravity is or why it works. It acts instantaneously across the Universe. None of that speed of light throttling, not for our bellicose "gravitons", no sir. Einstein kludges up the "fabric of space-time" fairy tale and the number crunchers go into a century long phlogiston orgasm making John Holmes look like a cross-eyed hamster by comparison. WE ARE the "black hole" and the grant funded cardinals and bishops are working us like a twenty dollar convention hooker.

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