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In one of those discoveries that tests the limit of human perception from the tiny confines of a planet orbiting a small star, scientists in Australia say they have isolated a “monster” black hole– the largest yet seen out in space.

The black hole is the size of about 20 billion suns – at least from the measurements we can see, at 12 billion light-years distant. And it has been growing an estimated 1 percent every 1 million years.

It also swallows mass in the equivalent of our entire sun every two Earth days, reports the team from the Australian National University, recently in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia

The huge devourer of stars and world is sucking in so much matter it cases enormous friction and heat, which makes it incredibly bright.

That light was measured by the SkyMapper telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory at the Australian National University. At first the astronomers suspected the far-off object was potentially a huge quasar. But the 2.3-meter telescope allowed them to detect the light in near-infrared and really understand the scope of the discovery.

Over the course of the look back into the earliest dark ages of the universe, the light waves had been stretched to the point of red shift, they add.

“As the universe expands, space expands and that stretches the light waves and changes their color,” said Christian Wolf, the lead author of the study. “We don’t know how this one grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the universe. The hunt is on to find even faster-growing black holes.”

The new object is known as the “ultra-luminous” QSO SMSS J215728.21-360215.1. 

Such black holes can be used as “beacons” to measure the expansion of the universe, and the early formation of the elements in the most ancient galaxies, said the scientists.

The breakthrough was made because of the precision of the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which allows the Earth-bound SkyMapper to more precisely bypass the “contamination” from cool stars in the Milky Way, which may get in the way.

The race is on to identify these massive structures out at the farthest reaches of the universe we can detect. The most massive black hole identified prior to this was identified in the journal Nature this past December; the structure had a mass approximately 800 million of our suns.

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