Astronomers have discovered one of the largest black holes ever found — an ultramassive monster roughly 30 billion times the mass of the sun — using a space-time trick predicted by Albert Einstein.
The colossal black hole, which lurks 2.7 billion light-years from Earth in the brightest galaxy of the galaxy cluster Abell 1201, was given away by a giant arc of warped light from a background galaxy that had been stretched and smudged by the black hole’s immense gravitational field.
The cosmic monster exists “on the upper limit of how large we believe black holes can theoretically become,” the astronomers who detected it said in a statement. But it could only be the first of many cosmic behemoths that the team could spot across the night sky using this technique. Finding the ultramassive black holes is just the first step in figuring out how these beasts grow so large, the researchers wrote in a paper published March 28 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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