Black holes are one of the most mysterious objects in the universe. Their existence was predicted theoretically by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, more than 100 years ago. When something is sucked in by these jumbo cosmic objects, the whereabouts of that object become a complete mystery. Black holes are one of the most important topics of research in astrophysics. The recent picture of the black hole at the heart of M87 galaxy has sparked even more interest in this field.

Today, let us have a look at the 5 of the biggest black holes that have been discovered so far. Since these are quite massive objects, using the standard unit of measurements i.e. Kg would be silly. So we use a new unit, the solar masses. One solar mass equals 200,000 trillion trillion Kg. That’s 2 followed by 30 zeroes. That’s the mass of the Sun.

Subscribe our YouTube channel for science videos

5 Most Massive Black Holes Discovered So Far

5. NGC 6166

NGC 6166 - most massive black holes
NGC 6166 captured by Spitzer Space Telescope

NGC 6166 is a beast having total mass of 30 billion solar masses. It is actually an elliptical galaxy with an active nucleus in the center. It is about 490 million light years away in the Abell cluster in the constellation of Hercules. NGC 6166 is one of the most luminous source in terms of X rays.

The supermassive black hole at the center of this galaxy powers two symmetric parsec scale radio jets in the opposite direction. This is a result of the in-fall of gas into its center. It has been proposed that there are many O type stars near the center of the galaxy. Also, a peculiar thing about NGC 6166 is that it shows a blueshift i.e. it is moving towards us.

Also watch: What if Betelgeuse explodes?

4. H1821+643

The 4th in the list of most massive black holes is H1821+643. Identified in 2014, back then it was considered the most supermassive black hole. The mass of this supergiant is more than 30 billion solar masses. Termed as a quasar, this black hole boasts a gigantic mass of over 30 billion solar masses. The black hole is located in the constellation of Draco, at a distance of over 10.4 Gly (Giga-Light Year). Besides being massive, H1821+643 is quite big. If it were at the place of the Sun, the Schwarzchild diameter of this black hole extends to the orbit of Pluto

3. S5 0014+81

5 Most Massive Black Holes Discovered So Far. 2
Artist’s impression of S5 0014+81, one of the most massive black holes

This is the most interesting one in the list. S5 0014+81 has a mass of about 40 billion solar masses. It is actually a blazar. Blazars are the most energetic of all sub classes of quasars. It is one of the most luminous quasars with total energy output of 1041 watts.

If the quasar were at a distance of 280 light-years from Earth, it would give out as much energy per square meter as the Sun does at Earth, despite being 18 million times more distant. The quasar’s luminosity is therefore about 3 × 1014 (300 trillion) times the Sun, or over 25,000 times as luminous as all the 100 to 400 billion stars of the Milky Way Galaxy combined, making it one of the most powerful objects in the observable universe. However, because of its huge distance of 12.1 billion light-years it can only be studied by spectroscopy. The central black hole of the quasar devours an extremely huge amount of matter, equivalent to 4,000 solar masses of material every year.

Also read: How big is UY Scuti – the largest star in the universe?

The host galaxy of S5 0014+81 is a giant elliptical starburst galaxy, with the apparent magnitude of 24.

Sign up our newsletter to get the notifications of Basics of Astrophysics series starting on April 10

2. IC 1101

5 Most Massive Black Holes Discovered So Far. 3
IC 1101 – the largest galaxy discovered so far

IC 1101 is the most massive galaxy known in the universe so far. It is a supergiant elliptical galaxy. Being elliptical, it is devoid of gas and hence the star formation rate in this galaxy is very low, just like other ellipticals. The black hole at the center of IC 1101 has a mass between 40 – 100 billion solar masses. This ultramassive black hole is a bright radio source.

1. TON 618

5 Most Massive Black Holes Discovered So Far. 4
TON 618 tops the list of most massive black holes

The list of the most massive black holes is topped by TON 618. TON 618 is technically a a hyperluminous, broad-absorption line, radio-loud quasar—located near the North Galactic Pole in the constellation Canes Venatici. It contains the most massive known black hole, with a mass of 66 billion solar masses. A black hole of this mass has a Schwarzschild radius of 1,300 AU (about 390 billion km in diameter, more than 40 times the size of Neptune’s orbit).

It shines with a luminosity of 4×1040 watts, or as brilliantly as 140 trillion Suns, making it one of the brightest objects in the known Universe.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

We are starting a 30 article long Basics of Astrophysics series from April 10. Subscribe To receive the articles right in your inbox!

5 thoughts on “5 Most Massive Black Holes Discovered So Far.”

  1. Pingback: 5 Astronomy Apps That You Must Try If You Love Astronomy

  2. Pingback: 5 Important Life Lessons Stephen Hawking Taught Us About Life

  3. Pingback: The Concept Of Hawking Radiation From Black Holes

  4. Pingback: An Introduction To The Famous Black Hole Information Paradox.

  5. Pingback: Top 5 Astronomy Apps That You Must Have If You Love Outer Space.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top