Biggest Black Hole Ever: 5 Top Things to Know

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By Arlene Paredes | November 29, 2012 5:27 PM EST

Texas astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have found the most massive black hole ever recorded, and it measures 17 billion times the mass of the sun. The team's findings are in the Nov. 29 issue of the journal Nature.

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Below are some interesting facts about black holes and the biggest one to be confirmed.

5 Things to Know about the Biggest Black Hole Ever Recorded

1. Astronomers used the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory. They found the most massive black hole ever studied in galaxy NGC 1277. This galaxy had already been photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope, enabling the scientists to measure its mass using available data.

2. Black holes are expected in galaxies. But they are typically just 0.1 per cent of the galaxy to which they belong. By comparison, the curiously massive black hole is 14 per cent of its galaxy, NGC 1277. It is 17 billion times the size of the sun, which is 330,000 times more massive than Earth.

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3. NGC 1277 is situated 220 million light-years away from Earth. The galaxy, which is in the constellation Perseus, is only 10 per cent the size and mass of Earth's galaxy, Milky Way.

"This is a really oddball galaxy," said research team spokesperson Dr Karl Gebhardt of The University of Texas at Austin. "It's almost all black hole. This could be the first object in a new class of galaxy-black hole systems."

2. Massive black holes are expected to form when huge stars die. It can continue to grow by absorbing surrounding mass. Dr Gebhardt said the NGC 1277 black hole "leads us to think that very massive galaxies have a different physical process in how their black holes grow.""

1. By comparison to the NGC 1277 galaxy, the black hole at the core of Milky Way measures only about 4.3 million times the mass of the sun.

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