A colossal black hole has been discovered: it has a mass 32.7 billion times that of our Sun and is located 2.7 billion light-years from Earth. The discovery is due to research coordinated by James Nightingale, of the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, and is based on data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope. Published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the research was possible by exploiting a gravitational lens, i.e. a phenomenon of distortion of light due to the presence of large masses foreseen by relativity.
The black hole, with a mass of more than 30 billion stars like the Sun concentrated in a relatively tiny space, is located at the center of Abell 1201, a galaxy 2.7 billion light-years away that lies at the center of a large cluster made up of thousands of other galaxies. “It is certainly one of the largest black holes ever identified and this is enough to make it interesting, but what makes the work even more important is the method with which it was identified, i.e. the use of a gravitational lens”, commented Crescenzo Tortora, of the Capodimonte Astronomical Observatory of the Italian Institute of Astrophysics (Inaf). It is a phenomenon of distortion of light, already foreseen by Einstein’s relativity, which is starting to be used in a concrete way only in recent years and allows new possibilities to be opened up for astronomy. In this case it made it possible to ‘weigh’ the black hole at the center of Abell 1201 and measure its incredible mass precisely.
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