– The hole, which is about 30 billion times the mass of our sun, is one of the largest ever discovered. The size is at the upper limit of how big we think black holes can theoretically be, so it’s an extremely exciting discovery, observational cosmologist James Nightingale, lead author of the study, told the academy.
The team that made the discovery, led by Durham University in the UK, used a technique called gravitational lensing. Briefly explained, a nearby galaxy is used as a giant magnifying glass to bend the light from a foreground galaxy. In this way, it became possible for the researchers to carefully examine how light is bent by a black hole inside a galaxy hundreds of millions of light years from Earth.
It is the first time that a black hole has been found using lensing technology. Simulations made by a so-called supercomputer, as well as images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, have also been used to confirm the size of the hole.
The researchers describe it as an “extremely exciting” discovery that opens up new possibilities for finding additional black holes.