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Light-bending gravity reveals one of the largest black holes

Artistic rendering of a Black Hole. Depositphotos.

It is over 30 billion times the mass of our Sun.

Groundbreaking Discovery Opens New Possibilities for Black Hole Exploration

Utilizing gravitational lensing and supercomputing simulations, a team of astronomers has uncovered one of the largest black holes ever discovered, potentially revolutionizing the way we study these cosmic phenomena.

A Revolutionary Approach to Black Hole Discovery

Astronomers from Durham University have discovered an ultramassive black hole, over 30 billion times the mass of our Sun, by leveraging a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. In this process, light from a distant object is bent and magnified by a foreground galaxy. The researchers used the DiRAC HPC facility’s supercomputing simulations to closely examine how light is bent by a black hole within a galaxy millions of light-years away from Earth. The findings are published in “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.”

Simulating the Journey of Light

The team conducted hundreds of thousands of simulations, each with a different black hole mass, to track the journey of light through the universe. When they introduced an ultramassive black hole into one of the simulations, the observed path of light from the distant galaxy to Earth matched that of images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Lead author Dr. James Nightingale of Durham University’s Department of Physics described the black hole as “an extremely exciting discovery” given its extraordinary size.

Unlocking the Secrets of Quiescent Black Holes

Gravitational lensing occurs when a foreground galaxy’s gravitational field bends light from a background galaxy, enabling scientists to study the background galaxy in greater detail. This method allows for the study of quiescent black holes, those not in an active state, which is currently unachievable in distant galaxies. According to Dr. Nightingale, this approach could help detect more black holes beyond our local universe and provide insight into their evolution.

Exploring the Origins of Ultramassive Black Holes

The study, which also involved Germany’s Max Planck Institute, suggests that astronomers may find many more ultramassive, quiescent black holes than previously thought and explore how they grew to such immense sizes. The discovery’s roots date back to 2004 when Durham University’s Professor Alastair Edge first observed a massive arc of gravitational lensing. Nearly two decades later, Dr. Nightingale’s team revisited the phenomenon using high-resolution images from NASA’s Hubble Telescope and Durham University’s DiRAC COSMA8 supercomputer facility.

A New Era of Black Hole Exploration

This groundbreaking discovery marks the beginning of a deeper exploration into the enigmatic world of black holes. With future advancements in large-scale telescopes, astronomers hope to study even more distant black holes, furthering our understanding of their size, scale, and evolution.

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