It is a truism of modern astronomy that every galaxy has a hungry heart, to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, in the form of a massive black hole gulping gas, dust and even stars.
Astronomers in Australia now say they have found the hungriest heart in all the cosmos. It is a black hole 20 billion times the mass of the sun eating the equivalent of a star every two days.
The black hole is growing so rapidly, said Christian Wolf, of the Australian National University, who led the team that found it in the depths of time, “that it is probably 10,000 times brighter than the galaxy it lives in.” So bright, that it is dazzling our view and we can’t see the galaxy itself. He and his colleagues announced the discovery in a paper to be published in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia.
Black holes are a one-way gate to gravitational oblivion, according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but they can only swallow so much, depending on their size; the rest of the matter and energy gets splashed out across space, producing the fireworks popularly known as quasars.