New record for largest Black Hole found (and it is indeed huge)
August 14, 2019 11:06 AM   Subscribe

It was worth it just for this paragraph: This black hole is huge, even by cosmological standards. The team say at a conservative estimate, it is 40 billion times more massive than the Sun. By comparison, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy, Sagittarius A*, is only 4 million times more massive than the Sun. Original article
posted by aleph (59 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
launch me into the hole through the fish tube
posted by poffin boffin at 11:08 AM on August 14 [15 favorites]


a'la the Salmon Cannon?
posted by aleph at 11:11 AM on August 14


I’m afraid ‘400 trillion times more massive than the sun’ would have very much the same impact on my brain.
posted by Segundus at 11:25 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]


This calculator says a non-rotating black hole with 400 trillion times the mass of the sun would have an event horizon about 250 light years in diameter.
posted by The Tensor at 11:36 AM on August 14 [5 favorites]


To make it easier to visualize: the sun has a mass of approximately 2 × 10^30 kg. So this black hole has a mass of 80 x 10^39 kg. The earth has a mass of about 6 x 10^24 kg. So you could fit about 13 x 10^15 (15 quadrillion) earths inside this black hole. I realize that you probably have a better idea of how big the earth is than how big a quadrillion is, but I still find it helpful.
posted by ubiquity at 11:39 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


That's a big-ass hole.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:39 AM on August 14 [26 favorites]


Space is big. You may think your local main-sequence star is big, but that's just peanuts to space.
posted by bonehead at 11:43 AM on August 14 [35 favorites]


As the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 brought out a new wave of dolts, this is the paragraph that leaps out at me:
This huge size makes the Holm 15A black hole a good candidate for imaging. Earlier this year, astronomers took the first picture of a black hole using an array of eight radio telescopes positioned all around the world that created a planet-size instrument. This array is known as the Event Horizon Telescope and has a resolution of 20 milliarcseconds, equivalent to the resolution required to see Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the moon from Earth.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:43 AM on August 14 [6 favorites]


To put this into terms I can understand, the gravitational pull of this super-massive black hole is only slightly less than that of Sid Meier's Civilization II.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:52 AM on August 14 [13 favorites]


They mentioned this came from the collision of a couple of young Galaxies. Looks like a lot of that disappeared down this hole.
posted by aleph at 11:56 AM on August 14 [1 favorite]


> To put this into terms I can understand, the gravitational pull of this super-massive black hole is only slightly less than that of Sid Meier's Civilization II.

please do not use those words in public i have work to do i have to do work in order to get money if i do not get money i will not be able to eat food or sleep indoors please stop using those words in that order do not do it ever again thank you.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:11 PM on August 14 [42 favorites]


I wonder if there is a mistake in this article? As per @ricochetbiscuit's comment about a resolution of "20 milliarcseconds" in the article didn't match what I remembered about the dimensions of this object: "The newly discovered black hole fills an area of the sky about 18 ± 3.7 microarcseconds, so it may well be imageable with the Event Horizon Telescope." Checking the org's website shows the same resolution. Milliarcseconds vs microarcseconds difference.
posted by aleph at 12:12 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Where we're going we don't need eyes
posted by The Whelk at 12:13 PM on August 14 [19 favorites]


This calculator says a non-rotating black hole with 400 trillion times the mass of the sun would have an event horizon about 250 light years in diameter.

I don't mean to sound like I'm spaceshaming but that is Too Big and I don't care for it at all.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:15 PM on August 14 [29 favorites]


So you could fit about 13 x 10^15 (15 quadrillion) earths inside this black hole. I realize that you probably have a better idea of how big the earth is than how big a quadrillion is, but I still find it helpful.

Imagine a small village or neighborhood of 500 people. Now make every cell in those 500 villagers' bodies an Earth. Voila! 15 quadrillion Earths.
posted by Jpfed at 12:32 PM on August 14 [8 favorites]


Whelk. What IS it about that movie? By all nominal standards of measurement it's terrible, yet it persists.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 12:34 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Can they name the black hole Gargantua ?
posted by Pendragon at 12:42 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


By all nominal standards of measurement it's terrible, yet it persists.

prolly the flashback bloodsoaked space orgy scene.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:42 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Missed it so far, now you're got me interested.
posted by aleph at 12:46 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


Christ, what a blackhole
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:50 PM on August 14 [10 favorites]


What IS it about that movie? By all nominal standards of measurement it's terrible, yet it persists.

Rumour has it there is a tv series in development as well. The movie has a very vocal and devoted fan base for unknown reasons.
posted by Ashwagandha at 1:05 PM on August 14


Oh. I thought you were talking about Back to the Future, and I was going to tell someone to fight me.
posted by Naberius at 1:07 PM on August 14 [8 favorites]


(Relevant Event Horizon clip: Where we're going, we don't need eyes to see. TW: gore, terrible writing, bad acting from people who should know better.)
posted by uberchet at 1:14 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


So that's where all those lost single socks got to.

That's a big-ass hole.

https://xkcd.com/37/
posted by Foosnark at 1:27 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]


The Hawking Radiation must be off the charts!
posted by clavdivs at 2:00 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


bloodsoaked space orgy

...is the name of my GWAR tribute band.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:13 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]


40 billion solar masses is supposed to be pretty close to the maximum size of a black hole. I heard that around 50 solar masses, the mass of the accretion disk becomes so large that it begins to form stars in orbit around the black hole instead of allowing the matter to get sucked in, which cuts off the black hole from growing larger.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 2:19 PM on August 14 [6 favorites]


50 billion...
posted by I-Write-Essays at 2:26 PM on August 14


From the end of the summary: "The photon ring radius is √27 G MBH / c2 = 21 ± 4.1 AU."
Am I misreading, or is that really small? I got 2052 au, which according to this calculator matches up with the 18 microarcseconds figure.
posted by lucidium at 2:54 PM on August 14


never cease to be awed by astronomy’s ability to discover fertile new territory for ‘yo momma so fat’ jokes
posted by um at 2:54 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


If I was King of Space I would decree that all brain-meltingly large astronomical bodies must be given moronically simple names like “Bill” or “Tim” or “Brenda”.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:23 PM on August 14 [6 favorites]


> So you could fit about 13 x 10^15 (15 quadrillion) earths inside this black hole.

Although a black hole event horizon is 3-dimensional, it's not at all clear that there is in fact any INSIDE to speak of. The entropy of a black hole scales with the surface area of the horizon, not the volume of the interior. In many senses, a black hole behaves as if it were a 2-dimensional object without any interior, not a 3-dimensional object.

As long as we remain outside the black hole, time ends at the event horizon, and we will never see anything actually go inside of it. It just gets plastered around the event horizon. If one did cross the event horizon and see an interior, it wouldn't necessarily have the volume of the event horizon, as the distance to the singularity may be growing at the speed of light. That's one reason that wormholes between entangled black holes aren't traversable: the Einstein-Rosen Bridge grows faster than you can cross it.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 3:26 PM on August 14 [9 favorites]


The event horizon of that beast must be the flattest "surface" in the visible universe.
posted by monotreme at 4:54 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


The size of these numbers is hurting my brain and you guys arenʻt helping
posted by obloquy at 5:41 PM on August 14 [4 favorites]


The event horizon of that beast must be the flattest "surface" in the visible universe.

In which coordinate system?
posted by sjswitzer at 5:48 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


That's a big-ass hole.

True, but even if Trump finagled his way past the event horizon, his tweets would still come out.
posted by cenoxo at 6:39 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Damn, I couldn't make that Katamari even if I had a million years.
posted by Monochrome at 6:55 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Can they name the black hole Gargantua ?

Oddly enough I was reading the other day about planets orbiting massive black holes, and I found this great SE answer on how black hole size and distance, and resulting time dilation, might affect habitability.

Another group calculated the effects of time dilation on the cosmic microwave background hitting one of the planets in that movie and their calculations found that there would be tsunamis of molten aluminum, not water. Give Matt Damon a surf board, quick!
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 7:02 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


When I'm having bad day on planet Earth, I shall remind myself that it could be 40 billion times worse
posted by polymodus at 9:39 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


The vital statistics of black holes are truly bizarre.

The radius of a black hole is directly proportional to its mass, but the radius of a sphere of a given substance of ordinary matter here on the surface of Earth goes up as the cube root of its mass — which means that a black hole with the mass of the entire Earth would have a radius of just over a third of an inch, whereas a black hole with the mass of the of the entire observable universe would have a radius of the same order of magnitude as the actual observable universe itself (14 billion light years for the black hole; 46.5 billion light years for the observable universe).
posted by jamjam at 12:53 AM on August 15 [3 favorites]


Nah truly bizarre are the vital statistics of white dwarfs. Heavier ones are smaller, not bigger.
posted by edd at 2:23 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Oh. I thought you were talking about Back to the Future, and I was going to tell someone to fight me.

oh I was wondering which

prolly the flashback bloodsoaked space orgy scene

Wait, is this a deleted scene on the Blu-Ray?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:21 AM on August 15


Oh my brain. I was watching the NOVA episode about New Horizons last night and those numbers hurt my brain. I think my brain just exploded. I'm in awe of the scientists who contemplate numbers that big.
posted by kathrynm at 7:36 AM on August 15


Wait, is this a deleted scene on the Blu-Ray?

There's a brief cut to Crispin Glover's character fantasizing about a blood soaked space orgy when he's being humiliated by Biff in the diner, but it's easy to miss.
posted by mubba at 8:24 AM on August 15 [3 favorites]


even if Trump finagled his way past the event horizon, his tweets would still come out.

Yes, but redder and dimmer over time.
posted by sjswitzer at 9:56 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]


black hole with the mass of the of the entire observable universe would have a radius of the same order of magnitude as the actual observable universe itself

Which is fascinating and probably significant in itself since the edge of the observable universe is an event horizon of sorts.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:02 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]


It’s not a sexual orgy but rather a weird ecstatic bloodletting by bridge officers and it’s seen when the recovery crew manages to finish reconstructing the ship’s log.

The movie persists because of some clever conceits and one-liners, relatable if cliched characters, very atmospheric sets and camerawork and a really really strong performance by Larry Fishbourne.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:31 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


I am confused by the mass thing, I thought that infinite density and gravity implied effectively infinite mass within the event horizon.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:33 PM on August 15


black hole with the mass of the of the entire observable universe would have a radius of the same order of magnitude as the actual observable universe itself

Which is fascinating and probably significant in itself since the edge of the observable universe is an event horizon of sorts.

I've been thinking that too, sjswitzer.

It occurred to me several years ago that the evolution of our Big Bang universe looks a bit like what we might imagine as the evolution of a black hole as seen from the inside AND time reversed.

In this picture, the endpoint of our universe is the initial formation of the event horizon, and the Big Bang itself is identified with the singularity the matter inside the black hole is falling towards, which because time is reversed for us, we see as an expansion from that singularity.

And the reason we experience an expanding universe is that, after the formation of the event horizon of the black hole, the matter inside it which continues to fall inward would seem to carry an event horizon with it because it would only become denser and generate a stronger gravitational field as it falls inward. And that event horizon would limit the size of our universe as it went inward toward singularity.

I don't doubt that there are great numbers of irresolvable internal and external contradictions in this picture in the unlikely event that I have not simply confused myself so badly that it's not even coherent enough to think about, but it startled me to realize when I looked at that Wikipedia article on the Schwarzchild radius that the observable universe is arguably within an error bar of being the size of a black hole containing the mass of the observable universe — although I can't decide whether or not I would expect the observable universe to actually be smaller than the maximum sized black hole the mass of the universe could generate.
posted by jamjam at 2:36 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


I will subscribe to your newsletter, jamjam.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:06 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Jamjam: as I understand it, time wouldn't need to be reversed. Since a black hole's radius depends directly on its mass (unlike normal objects, whose radii depend on the cube root of their mass) a large enough black hole will have a density approximating that of a vacuum. Our whole observable universe may be / be in a black hole and we would have no way to tell.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:13 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Since we're talking galaxy-brain ideas here, I'll add that the size of things in our daily lives is very close to the geometric mean of the smallest thing and the largest thing: to get to the scale of the observable universe from "normal" sizes requires about as much doubling as getting to the planck length requires halving. That suggests a different, and perhaps related, duality.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:16 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


(Update: the geometric mean is about a nanometer... so much smaller than I remembered. But still, we make things almost that small. And we're closer [in this sense] to the size of the universe than to the smallest conceivable thing.)
posted by sjswitzer at 3:44 PM on August 15


Soooooo

I just went to a talk on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which was also a talk about black holes, and there was a fabulous talk about that beautiful photograph of the great big black hole living in M87, and wow wow wow wow wow I have to share black hole facts so thank you MetaFilter for being here and thank you this thread for being here

Okay deep breath

FIRST. The M87 black hole is like about 6 billion solar masses, wow. I mean, that's no 40 billion solar masses, but it's very massive! And honestly, the difference between getting sucked into a 6 billion and 40 billion solar mass black hole is like the difference between hitting a butterfly with an F650 and a fully loaded 18-wheeler. They're both big. They're both going to spaghettify you.

SECOND. The bright "flares" on the bottom of the black hole photograph are imaging artifacts! The EHT, short for Event Horizon Telescope (all agree this is a good name for a black-hole-photographing telescope) is an array of telescopes on our excellent home planet, Earth. These telescopes are mostly lined up from Arizona to Antarctica, and there are also telescopes lined up from Hawaii to Spain. And because the M87 black hole photograph was made using all of these different telescopes, some spots were brighter (and, in my understanding, also higher resolution) than others. The brightest artifacts in the disk correspond to the north-south-ish and east-west-ish layout of telescopes across Earth (our excellent and currently habitable aforementioned home planet).

I think the photo is such a beautiful photo because it's not just a photo of black hole, the artifacts are, in a sense, a photographic record of the process of the photo's creation. It reminds of the first surviving photograph ever made (which, I just now learned, was made with a kind of natural asphalt!! whaaaaaat??!!! whoa) which required a long exposure, so long, in fact, that it has its own unique artifacts, such opposite sides of buildings appearing sunlit.

(thank you metafilter for indulging my tangent about asphalt-based photographs of 19th century cities in a thread about space majesties)

THIRD. Guess what. Our galaxy. Our sick, sweet galaxy, that awesome spiral galaxy we live in? You remember it? THE MILKY WAY???? Okay well of course there's a black hole in the middle of it. The big black hole (Sagittarius-A* is what everyone calls it; I call it BANANAS CITY, CHAOS CAPITAL OF THE GALAXY)

Oh I guess I was supposed to conclude the sentence above

Hold on

THIRD the big black hole named BANANAS CITY (CHAOS CAPITAL OF THE GALAXY) was moving TOO FAST AND FURIOUS to get as good an image as they got of M87* (which in spite of being bigger has no nickname; it's too far away for me to think of it as truly bananas) so I guess they have to do some special math or something or figure out what the radio telescope interferometry data means about how its moving or something i'm sure I'm probably using the wrong words but you get the point our black hole lives its life ten seconds at a time and for those ten seconds or less its free and the scientists were hoping to get a good image out of the data this fall but now next spring looks more likely which is great because I have a feeling this this black hole needs a catchphrase and its catchphrase should be "KNOW NOW WHAT I MEAN, VERNAL"

(This catchphrase harkens back to the popular character Ernest P Worrel, who concluded his monologues with "Know what I mean, Vern?" except now it's VERNAL (because black holes also popular, and photograph coming in spring, the vernal time) and delivered in a deep booming voice and older-school grammar because THIS BLACK HOLE IS BANANAS CITY)

So keep your eyes to the skies friends you never know what you're going to catch. Even right now Fox News is getting in on the action with the recent headline "Black hole at Milky Way's center seen behaving strangely" (not gonna link), which is the Fox Newsiest of all possible black hole headlines; I mean come on.

Finally here is a video of a black hole eating a star. Have a good night and hug your loved ones because giant singularities are roaming the universe
posted by compartment at 11:10 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


Event Horizon is a great mix of science fiction and horror, and I will die on this doomed spaceship.

Also, obligatory.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 6:32 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


(Sorry to revisit this but I woke up last night realizing my mistake. The geometric mean between the planck length and the diameter of the observable universe is a bit less than a tenth of a millimeter. So, closer to what I remembered after all.)
posted by sjswitzer at 10:33 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


1. Event Horizon is earnestly terrible. Not so-bad-it's-good, but rather a great film masked by a terrible film. It has all the elements and almost gels but like a failed fudge you can tell that it should have been great. And Sam Neil just sells the hell out of his character.

2. If these folks are correct* it could just be black holes all the way down.

* I am unable to find a peer-reviewed paper at this time so...maybe?
posted by Ignorantsavage at 9:47 PM on August 16


Event Horizon will always be my favorite movie that gave me nightmares. Maybe all of you saw it as an adult and thought it was bad. I saw it as a 10 year old and slept with the lights on for a week. It will always hold a special place in my heart for that.

Finally here is a video of a black hole eating a star.

Super disappointed that this was an artist's rendering instead of actual footage.

Thank you space nerds for all your nerdy excitement and knowledge. May we all someday get to experience the BANANAS CITY of a black hole and never be able to report back about it (maybe thats where the luxury gay space communism is, its a secret so assholes can't join)
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:52 AM on August 19


Had the same momentary "will this be real or a rendering" thought then I remembered scientists have just managed in the last year to take a single picture of a single blackhole; video of a long term event associated with blackholes is still on the wish list. So disappointed.
posted by Mitheral at 4:16 PM on August 19


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