black holes

Hungriest Black Hole in the Universe Gobbles Up One Sun Per Day

Photo: Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

How many suns do you think you could eat per day, if challenged? To make it more interesting, let’s say the prize was $50,000 for whoever could eat the most suns. Now that you have incentive, what do you think? One sun, or fewer? If your answer is fewer, well, I hate to tell you that you’ve already been beaten.

In 2018, a team of scientists from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University discovered the fastest-growing supermassive black hole in the known universe, called J2157. This week, the same team released new research explaining exactly how massive the hole actually is as well as how much it eats to sustain its growth. The answer may shock you.

According to a press release about the research, the black hole is 34 billion times the mass of our sun and about 8,000 times bigger than the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Research team member Dr. Christopher Onken explained it like this: “If the Milky Way’s black hole wanted to grow that fat, it would have to swallow two-thirds of all the stars in our galaxy.” Damn.

Researcher Dr. Fuyan Bian said they were tipped off to the black hole’s impressive mass back in 2018, when they noticed its rate of growth. “How much black holes can swallow depends on how much mass they already have,” he said. “So for this one to be devouring matter at such a high rate, we thought it could become a new record holder. And now we know.”

And exactly how much can this black hole devour, you’re wondering? According to the release, the hole “gorges on nearly the equivalent of one sun every day.” The hole puts you to shame, it’s true. But please do not feel sad. I have faith that you too can one day eat a sun. Life is about challenging yourself, after all. It’s about growth.