The Straits Times
Published on Nov 29, 2012

Galaxy-squatting black hole set for the record books


PARIS (AFP) - Astronomers on Wednesday said they had found possibly the biggest black hole ever observed, a leviathan with a mass 17 billion times that of the Sun, brooding at the heart of a distant galaxy.

The black hole is as unexpected as it is vast, for it accounts for nearly a seventh of its galaxy's mass, a finding that may rewrite theories of cosmic formation, they said.

Named NGC 1277, the monster lies 220 million light years away in a small galaxy just a tenth the size of our Milky Way. The hole's maw is more than 11 times wider than Neptune's orbit around the Sun.

It accounts for a whopping 14 per cent of the galaxy's mass, compared with the 0.1 per cent that is the norm for galactic black holes. "This is a really oddball galaxy," said Karl Gebhardt of the University of Texas at Austin in a press release. It's almost all black hole. This could be the first object in a new class of galaxy black hole systems."