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Hungry black hole gulping down gas faster than ever

Hungry black hole gulping down gas faster than ever
Highlights

Astronomers have discovered a black hole that is consuming gas from a nearby star 10 times faster than previously thought possible. The black hole known as P13 lies on the outskirts of the galaxy NGC7793 about 12 million light years away from Earth and is ingesting a weight equivalent to 100 billion hot dogs every minute.

Sydney: Astronomers have discovered a black hole that is consuming gas from a nearby star 10 times faster than previously thought possible.

The black hole known as P13 lies on the outskirts of the galaxy NGC7793 about 12 million light years away from Earth and is ingesting a weight equivalent to 100 billion hot dogs every minute.

Scientists first noticed P13 because it was a lot more luminous than other black holes, but it was initially assumed that it was simply bigger.

According to astronomer Roberto Soria from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at the Curtin University in Perth, as gas falls towards a black hole, it gets very hot and bright.

"It was generally believed the maximum speed at which a black hole could swallow gas and produce light was tightly determined by its size. So it made sense to assume that P13 was bigger than the ordinary, less bright black holes we see in our own galaxy, the Milky Way," Soria explained.

When Soria and his colleagues from the University of Strasbourg measured the mass of P13, they found it was actually on the small side, despite being at least a million times brighter than the Sun.

It was only then that they realised just how much material it was consuming.

P13 rotates around a super giant star 20 times heavier than our own Sun.

Soria compared P13 to small, Japanese eating champion Takeru Kobayashi.

"As hotdog-eating legend Takeru Kobayashi famously showed us, size does not always matter in the world of competitive eating and even small black holes can sometimes eat gas at an exceptional rate," he noted.

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