In June 2022, Australian scientists discovered a quasar that emits unusually bright light. The stunning view was generated by the supermassive black hole J1144 with a mass of over three billion suns. The image shows it as a bright blue spot. It’s not the first time astronomers have encountered such giants, but this one is special.
In the known universe, there are no black holes equal to J1144 in appetite. Every second it absorbs a mass equivalent to the mass of the Earth! It eats up so much matter that its event horizon is unusually wide – the orbits of all the planets in the solar system could fit inside of it! Scientists have concluded it’s the fastest growing black hole to have existed in the last 9 billion years.
A huge red-hot accretion disk formed around J1144 shines 7,000 times brighter than the light of the entire Milky Way. It’s so bright, even amateur astronomers can see it with a powerful enough telescope.
How dangerous is the black hole and many thousands other black holes that may lie much closer to us? How many of them surround our solar system or even sit right there? And are all black holes the same?