The most powerful black hole in the universe is now thought to be more than a trillion times the mass of our Sun, making it one of the biggest and most powerful known.
Its discovery comes from a team of scientists led by Professor Peter Higgs of the University of Warwick, who used data from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe to map out the exact geometry of the black hole.
But the team wasn’t quite ready to publish their findings until 2017.
Their paper in the journal Nature is now out of print, and the paper is no longer online.
“The papers were all pretty standard,” says John Busch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author of the paper.
“They looked at the motions of the particles in the black holes, they used the microwave to look at the spin of the atoms and they used gravitational wave detectors to measure how fast they spin,” he says.
“I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve got this thing that’s almost like a supermassive black hole,'” says Higgs, who is also a theoretical physicist at the University Of Bristol in England.
“It’s so massive and so bright, it’s amazing.”
The black hole that dominates the Milky Way is one of a group of about 10 known black holes in the Milky House.
Other supermassive supermassive events have been discovered by astronomers using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, but the latest findings have allowed Higgs to calculate the size of the event and the distance from the center.
The astronomers used the data from Kepler to calculate that the black star is about 7,000 times brighter than our Sun.
The black star also has about three times more mass than the sun, and its spin is around 2,000 degrees per second.
“This is one that we can measure, so it’s a good test to see whether this is really the same black hole,” says Higges, who has spent more than 30 years working on the research.
“We’ve got a really good record of these events, and it seems that the gravitational wave data from the Kepler data is really consistent with the theory of what these black holes are.”
But the new black hole isn’t the only one at the centre of the Milky Ways.
“If you’re looking for a super-massive blackhole, there’s another one that’s really big, and we don’t have a good idea what the mass is of this one,” says Busch.
“So, I’m really disappointed that we didn’t publish it.”
The team’s next steps in the search for the black supermassive object include observing it in the future with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, which is due to launch in 2018.
The observatory is the biggest telescope in the world and will see about 10 billion pixels of light each year.
“In the long run, we will be able to see a lot more about the evolution of the galaxy, because we’ll be able measure the evolution over a much longer time,” says study co-leader Professor Michael Ellinger of the Institute of Astronomy of the German Aerospace Center in Cologne.
“That’s a really important thing for understanding the history of the universe, and how galaxies are built and evolve.”
Higgs says the team hopes to use the data to map other black holes that might exist in the cosmos.
“What we hope is to use this to map these very massive black holes and then to study them in the long term, to study the history and how they form and how we might get to the black point where they’re not so massive anymore,” he explains.
“These are really big objects that we haven’t been able to map before, and that’s why we need to study these things more carefully and to go back and look for them.”
The study is published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
For more information about the black-hole research, visit the University’s website.
This article originally appeared on New Scientist.