The 8 biggest black holes
The largest type of black hole – the so-called supermassive black holes-have masses on the order of hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses. The mass of our Sun is 1,989 x 10,30 kg, which is about 333,000 times the mass of the Earth.
It is assumed that almost all large galaxies contain a supermassive black hole located in the center of the galaxy. In fact, there is a close connection between the formation of a black hole and the galaxy itself.
Although there are millions of supermassive black holes in the universe, the incredibly massive ones are rare, and only a small number have been identified to date.
Determining the mass of a large black hole is extremely difficult.
To measure the mass of supermassive black holes, scientists use a variety of sophisticated methods, including Doppler measurements, wide emission line reverb mapping, M-sigma ratio, and velocity dispersion.
The masses derived from these methods often contradict each other. Therefore, they still remain in the field of open research .
Below, we’ve collected some of the largest black holes with known masses measured at least an order of magnitude. The list is far from complete, but it gives a rough idea of how complex and vast our universe is.
- The central black hole of the Phoenix cluster.
Solar mass: 2 × 10 10.
The Phoenix Cluster is one of the most massive known clusters, with most of its mass in the form of dark matter and the intracluster medium.
A supermassive black hole in the central cluster galaxy pumps energy into the system. It is estimated that it is 20 billion times more massive than the Sun, and its horizon should be about 118 billion kilometers in diameter.
The Chandra data and various observations at other wavelengths have shown that this black hole is growing rapidly at a rate 60 times the mass of the Sun each year. But since it is already very large, this indicator is not sustainable. Growth cannot last more than 100 million years.
- NGC 4889.
Solar mass: 2. 1 × 10 10.
Discovered in 1785, NGC 4889 is the brightest galaxy in the northern part of the coma cluster, located at an average distance of 308 million light-years from Earth.
At the heart of NGC 4889 is one of the largest black holes, which heats the intracluster environment due to the friction created by falling dust and gases. This supermassive black hole is almost 5,200 times more massive than the Milky Way’s central black hole, and weighs about 21 billion solar masses.
The event horizon of the black hole is 20 to 124 billion kilometers wide, which is equivalent to the diameter of Pluto’s orbit from 2 to 12 times.
It is currently dormant, and stable stars seem to remain around it. However, the Hubble Space Telescope has detected an ionized environment around a supermassive black hole, suggesting that NGC 4889 may have been a quasar billions of years ago.
A quasar is an extremely bright active galactic core in which a supermassive black hole is surrounded by a gaseous accretion disk. It draws in dust and gas so much that it heats the substance to millions of degrees, resulting in huge energy emissions.
- APM 08279 + 5255.
Solar mass: 2. 3 × 10 10.
In 2002, Chandra’s observations showed that high-speed winds carry gases (up to 40% of the speed of light) out of the supermassive black hole feeding the quasar APM 08279 + 5255.
The quasar is located in the constellation Lynx and has a brightness equal to one quadrillion, the brightness of the Sun. It is a bright light source at almost all wavelengths, and has become one of the most studied distant objects.
The supermassive black hole powering APM 08279 + 5255 weighs 23 billion solar masses (measured by molecular disk velocities). However, another measurement method, called reverberation mapping, shows that the black hole weighs 10 billion solar masses – a huge difference between both measurement methods.
The double image of a quasar is caused by gravitational lensing (the bending of its light by a galaxy that has fallen into it). This effect also amplifies the light of the quasar by a factor of 100, which allows us to study its characteristics in depth, even if it is located at a distance of 12 billion light-years.
In the last decade, researchers have also found that APM 08279 + 5255 has enough water to fill Earth’s oceans more than 100 trillion times.
- NGC 6166.
Solar mass: 3 × 10 10.
NGC 6166 is one of the brightest elliptical galaxies [in terms of X-rays], located 490 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. About 39,000 globular clusters orbit the galaxy, indicating that the NGC 6166 halo blends seamlessly with the intracluster environment.
At the center of the galaxy is a supermassive black hole with a mass 30 billion times that of the Sun . Every year, it absorbs about 200 solar masses of gas, creating large relativistic jets.
Scientists have suggested that the center of the galaxy may also contain a few O-type stars; rare blue-white stars with temperatures of more than 30,000 kelvins.
- H1821 + 643.
Solar mass: 3 × 10 10.
The highly luminous quasar, H1821 + 643, is located in a giant cluster with a strong cooling flow in the constellation Draco.
In 2014, researchers discovered H1821 + 643 as one of the most massive black holes and accurately calculated its mass, which is equivalent to 30 billion solar masses. The event horizon of the black hole is 1150 AU wide (1 astronomical unit is approximately 150 million kilometers), and its average density is 22 grams per cubic meter, which is less than the air on Earth.
The researchers also found that the intracluster environment around the quasar is significantly different from other large galaxy clusters – the entropy and temperature are much lower and have much steeper gradients.
Recently, a detailed analysis of the quasar proved that our universe is filled with huge amounts of ionized hydrogen, accompanied by ionized oxygen.
- IC 1101.
Solar mass: (4-10) × 10 10.
IC 1101, one of the largest and brightest galaxies in the universe , contains at its center a supermassive black hole with a mass 40-100 billion times that of the Sun.
It is an elliptical galaxy located 1.04 billion light-years from Earth. The galaxy has a mass of about 100 trillion stars and extends 2 million light-years from its core.
Like other massive galaxies, IC 1101 contains a large number of metal-rich stars, some of which are 11 billion years old, and they are golden yellow in color.
- S5 0014 + 81.
Solar mass: 4 × 10 10.
S5 0014 + 81 is the most energetic type of active galactic nucleus – a blazar located near the high declination region of the constellation Cepheus, at a distance of about 12.07 billion light-years from Earth.
It is the 6th brightest quasar known to date, with a brightness of more than 10,41 watts. To put this in perspective, it’s 25,000 times brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy combined.
The central black hole of the blazar is extremely violent – it absorbs a huge amount of material (more than 4,000 solar masses of matter) every year.
In 2009, data from the Neil Gehriels Swift Observatory allowed scientists to calculate the mass of the central black hole . They found that it is 40 billion times more massive than our Sun, and its event horizon is 236.7 billion kilometers wide, equivalent to 40 times the radius of Pluto’s orbit.
- TON 618.
Solar mass: 6.6 × 10 10.
Ton 618 is a hyperluminium quasar located 10.37 billion light-years from Earth. It contains the largest black hole [known to mankind], weighing 66 billion times the mass of our Sun.
It was first discovered in 1957 when shooting faint blue stars that do not lie on the plane of the Milky Way. A more detailed radio survey conducted in 1970 identified TON 618 as a quasar.
TON 618 is thought to be an accretion disk of extremely hot gas swirling around a massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. It’s so bright that it outshines the rest of the galaxy. In fact, it is one of the brightest objects in the universe with a luminosity of 4 × 1040 W, which is equivalent to 140,000 billion times the size of the Sun.
Because the gas in the accretion disk moves at a very high speed (about 7,000 km / s), the black hole creates an exceptionally strong gravitational force. And the event horizon of such a massive black hole would be 2600 au in diameter.