Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers at the Max Planck Institute have discovered the largest black hole ever observed at the center of Holm 15A, a galaxy about 700 million light-years away.
The black hole is more than twice as largest as the previously observed record-setter at 40 billion times the mass of the Sun, and 10,000 times the mass of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
In addition to VLT, scientists also used additional data from the Chile observatory. The data help them map the structure of Holm 15A in unprecedented detail, helping them run simulations to explain the galaxy’s formation and its unusually faint center.
Fascinatingly, the black hole is powerful and large enough that it has either swallowed up the closest stars or tossed them toward the galaxy’s edge.
Scientists noted, “We use orbit-based, axisymmetric Schwarzschild models to analyze the stellar kinematics of Holm 15A from new high-resolution, wide-field spectral observations obtained with MUSE at the VLT. We find a supermassive black hole (SMBH) with a mass of (4.0 ± 0.80) × 1010 solar masses at the center of Holm 15A.”
“This is the most massive black hole with a direct dynamical detection in the local Universe.”
At the mass of Holm 15A* as determined, its Schwarzschild radius would be around 790 AU.
What’s more, the SMBH of Holm 15A is not only the most massive one to date; it is also four to nine times larger than expected given the galaxy’s bulge stellar mass and the galaxy’s stellar velocity dispersion.
Scientists ate continuing their study to conduct more complex and detailed modeling and comparing their results against their observations, to try to figure out exactly how the black hole formed.
The research has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal and is available on arXiv.