Black Holes Can Grow As Large As 50 Billion Suns

First Posted: Dec 18, 2015 02:51 PM EST

Researchers discovered that black holes, which are found in the heart of galaxies, could expand to 50 billion times the mass of the sun before they lose their discs of gas, which keeps them running , according to a study at the University of Leicester.

The study focused on super-massive black holes that are found in the center of many galaxies in regions where gas settles into an orbiting disc. This gas can lose energy and fall inwards, which feeds the black hole. However, discs can be unstable and they collapse into stars.

The researchers calculated how big a black hole would have to be for its outer edge to keep a disc from forming, they came up with 50 billion solar masses. The researchers found that a black hole would stop growing without a disc, which means that 50 billion suns would roughly be the upper limit. The means if a black hole still wanted to become larger, it would require a star to fall straight into it, or another black hole to merge with it.

"The significance of this discovery is that astronomers have found black holes of almost the maximum mass, by observing the huge amount of radiation given off by the gas disc as it falls in," Professor Andrew King, lead author of the study, said in a news release. "The mass limit means that this procedure should not turn up any masses much bigger than those we know, because there would not be a luminous disc."

The findings of this study were published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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