Astronomers have spotted a super massive black hole containing 17 billion times the mass of the Sun- which is of course a bit smaller than the one mentioned in Guinness Book of Records- which was as much as 21 billion solar masses.
Its location in a ho-hum group of galaxies suggests that cosmic monsters like this one might be more common than astronomers previously thought.
Astronomers know only of a few black holes that have reached this mind-boggling size. Garden-variety black holes that form at the end of a star’s life are much, much smaller. The recent observation of gravitational waves, for example, detected ripples from the merger of two black holes that were each roughly 30 times the mass of the sun.
And then there are the so-called supermassive black holes that can be found at the center of galaxies, like the one in our own Milky Way. “I hate to call that one puny, but it has only 4 million solar masses, and we found one that is 17 billion solar masses,” says Chung-Pei Ma, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley who led the research in the Nature study.
What strikes her is that this beast lives in what she called “a cosmic backwater,” an average-looking group of galaxies. The only other known black holes that are about this size were found in dense clusters of very large galaxies