Huge Black Hole In A Cosmic Backwater

In Black Holes by Brian Koberlein4 Comments

Inside the galaxy known as NGC 1600 there is a black hole 17 billion times more massive than our Sun. It’s been heralded as the largest black hole ever discovered. While that can be debated, it is certainly among the very largest. It’s also unusual because it doesn’t lie in a dense region of galaxies, but a fairly deserted region. Just how such a large black hole could have formed there isn’t entirely clear.

Since black holes grow in mass by capturing nearby matter, one would expect large black holes to be located in regions that are fairly dense with matter. This is similar to expecting skyscrapers to be located in dense cities, as Jens Thomas (lead author of a new paper on the discovery) puts it. But NGC 1600 is a fairly diffuse elliptical galaxy, and it’s pretty isolated from any nearby galaxies. Finding such a massive black hole in NGC 1600 is like finding a skyscraper in the middle of remote farmland.

Since this black hole is in a diffuse region of the cosmos, it likely won’t grow much beyond its current mass. It’s also likely that the black hole gained its mass much earlier in the Universe, which has implications for just how supermassive black holes formed in the early Universe.

Paper: Jens Thomas, et al. A 17-billion-solar-mass black hole in a group galaxy with a diffuse core. Nature (2016) doi:10.1038/nature17197


  1. Since it is so big, might it have absorbed most of the material around it and now it is in a sparse area?

  2. On your post edge effect, its a pretty good video about the black hole. Black hole doesn’t show up right away its over by the end. I see some posts saying black whole is in center of milky way but its not. Milky way has its own place and own planet.

  3. Also significant is that the black hole in NGC 1600 is characterized as “dormant”. That, in itself raises questions. How long ago was it active, and if so, what happened to the matter that was expelled in its jets?

  4. Could our Universe or parts of it be falling in a super large blackhole or something similar like a black void? Could that explain the expanding Universe?

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