Australian scientists have discovered the fastest growing black hole known in the universe.
Researchers used newly released data from the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite to confirm that the brightly shining object is a black hole, which appears to have been the mass of about 20 billion suns when the light was released and was growing by 1 percent every million years, researchers said in a statement released today (May 15).
And it's growing so fast, it's able to devour the mass equivalent to our sun every two days.
Christian Wolf of the ANU's Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics said. This also helped with its detection as light waves from the black hole red-shifted during their long journey to Earth, allowing the astronomers to use ANU's SkyMapper telescope to detect them in near-infrared.
"That one has a mass of 5 million solar masses - that is 40,000 times less mass than the one that we have now found", Dr Wolf says.
Black holes of such huge size and with such rapid growth are very rare to spot.
The black hole is estimated to be the size of 20 billion suns.
What's making astronomers so curious is that the black hole they saw was in the early days of the universe and they're wondering how it grew so large.
As well as its ravenous appetite, it would likely emit so many X-rays, life probably couldn't exist.
"As the Universe expands, space expands and that stretches the light waves and changes their colour", Dr Wolf said.
For those trying to unlock the secrets of the universe, the bigger a black hole is, the better.
"We don't have to be afraid of that".
However, he did then add the caveat: "It's billions of light years away, so don't cancel your weekend plans".
Wolf painted a vivid picture of what the supermassive black hole would look like from Earth if it were located in the center of our galaxy.
In addition, these fast-growing quasars help clear the fog around transiting objects, "which makes the universe more transparent", said Wolf. "So this means it's far, far away in another galaxy and it will never drift and come over here", he said.
"Maybe this will tell us something insane about the Big Bang that we never dreamt of or thought possible", he said.
The study, titled "Discovery of the most ultra-luminous QSO using Gaia, SkyMapper, and WISE", will be detailed in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia and the arXiv preprint is available online.
The supermassive black hole, also known as a quasar, is very ancient.