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UK astronomer discovers 'ultramassive black hole' - one of largest ever found

COVER News India logo COVER News India 30-03-2023
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A team of astronomers, led by Dr. James Nightingale from Durham University's Department of Physics, has discovered one of the biggest black holes ever found.

When researchers included an ultramassive black hole in a simulation, the path taken by the light from the faraway galaxy to reach Earth matched the path seen in real images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

As such, the team had found an ultramassive black hole, an object over 30 billion times the mass of our sun, in the foreground galaxy - a scale rarely seen by astronomers.

This is the first black hole found using gravitational lensing. The findings have been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Most of the biggest black holes that we know about are in an active state, where matter pulled in close to the black hole heats up and releases energy in the form of light, X-rays, and other radiation.

Gravitational lensing makes it possible to study inactive black holes, something not currently possible in distant galaxies. This approach could let astronomers discover far more inactive and ultramassive black holes than previously thought and investigate how they grew so large. The story of this particular discovery started back in 2004 when fellow Durham University astronomer, Professor Alastair Edge, noticed a giant arc of a gravitational lens when reviewing images of a galaxy survey.

With the help of some extremely high-resolution images from NASA's Hubble telescope and the DiRAC COSMA8 supercomputer facilities at Durham University, Dr Nightingale and his team were able to revisit this and explore it further.

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