Supermassive black hole found sitting in the middle of cosmic nowhere

Scientists have discovered one of the largest black holes that has ever been found. Interestingly, the supermassive black hole sits in what scientists consider a cosmic backwater. Finding such a massive black hole in such an out of the way place is akin to finding a gigantic skyscraper in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. The gigantic black hole contains 17 billion times the mass of our sun.

This newly discovered black hole is only slightly smaller than the largest known black hole weighing in at 21 billion solar masses. The newly discovered black hole is at the center of a galaxy called NGC 1600 about 200 million light years from Earth in the constellation Eridanus. The location of the massive black hole is a surprise to astronomers and scientists because such gigantic black holes so far have always been found in dense clusters of galaxies.

The discovery of this black hole in such an average-size galaxy group is forcing scientists to reconsider their ideas about where supermassive black holes might be found. "The black hole is much bigger than we expected for the size of the galaxy or where this galaxy lives, the environment," said study co-author Chung-Pei Ma, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley. "That's the puzzling part — or the intriguing part — of the result," Ma told "There may be more NGC 1600s out there lurking at more ordinary sites, like small towns in the U.S. rather than Manhattan."

Initial observations weren't detailed enough to see the spectrum of light in the center of NGC 1600. Follow-up observations were made using the Gemini Observatory comprised of two telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile. The resulting observations showed that the stars in the galaxy were moving fast enough that they could only reach such speeds if there were a 17-billion solar mass black hole in the center of the galaxy.