Massive black hole discovered with new technology

Published 4 April 2023
- By Editorial Staff
Artistic illustration of a black hole, where the black hole's intense gravitational field distorts the surrounding space.

Astronomers have discovered a previously unknown massive black hole using new technology. The black hole is 30 million times as massive as the sun.

At Durham University in the UK, astronomers have found one of the most massive black holes ever. In order to detect the black hole, they used “gravitational lensing”, whereby a foreground galaxy bends the light from a more distant object and then magnifies it, and then used supercomputer simulations to investigate the bending of light by a black hole in a galaxy hundreds of millions of light years from Earth.

The size of the black hole is described as “30 million times the mass of the sun”, which is an order of magnitude rarely seen by astronomers.

This particular black hole, which is roughly 30 billion times the mass of our Sun, is one of the biggest ever detected and on the upper limit of how large we believe black holes can theoretically become, so it is an extremely exciting discovery, says James Nightingale, an observational cosmologist from the university’s Department of Physics.

This is the first time a black hole has been discovered using this technique and it is hoped that it will lead to deeper exploration of black holes, which remain a great mystery to astronomers. Nightingale says that gravitational lenses make it possible to explore even inactive black holes, as previously only active ones could be seen.

This approach could let us detect many more black holes beyond our local universe and reveal how these exotic objects evolved further back in cosmic time, he says.