Supermassive black hole
There is a massive black hole 12 billion light years away that eats 3 suns a week- Representational image Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science
  • A rapidly growing black hole has been identified and it eats the mass of three suns per week
  • It is about 12 billion light years away, so it is unlikely to ever swallow up our Sun
  • The black hole is so big that if it were in the middle of the Milky Way, it would be ten times brighter than the Moon and would be the only visible star in the night sky
  • Also, the black hole is spewing so much UV radiation that it would possibly destroy all life on Earth even before swallowing it up from the centre of the Milky Way, had it been here

A new black hole has been found to grow so rapidly that it eats the mass of about three suns every week. Luckily for Earth, it is located about 12 billion light years away, unlikely to ever come near the planet or even the Milky Way galaxy.

First spotted by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia satellite as a brightly glowing object, the black hole was initially identified as a star. Researchers later confirmed that it was, in fact, a supermassive black hole. It had the mass of about 20 billion suns when the image was taken, and the ESA says that it is growing by one percent every million years.

"This black hole is growing so rapidly that it's shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy, due to all the gases it sucks in daily that cause lots of friction and heat," Christian Wolf, an astronomer at the Australian National University and first author on the new research, said in the statement.

If this behemoth was in the center of the Milky Way it would have been the only object visible at night, washing out all other stars and planets in its light, says Wolf. Ten times brighter than the Moon, it would have been quite a sight to behold. Also, it is a good thing it is nowhere near Earth. Apart from all the eating and devouring, it spews an excessive amount of energy that is mostly in the form of ultraviolet radiation but also releases X-rays.

"If this monster was at the center of the Milky Way, it would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of X-rays emanating from it," Wolf said. Observing it now, and the distances that it was able to cover over 12 billion years, the UV radiation has degraded down to Infrared.

"We don't know how this one grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the universe," Wolf said. "The hunt is on to find even faster-growing black holes."