At the center of the Milky Way is the largest object that we can be sure exists: a supermassive black hole (SMBH), four million times as massive as the sun.
Physicists believe that these giant singularities can reach even larger sizes once they have eaten a galaxy large enough. The largest estimates are in the region of 10 billion times as massive as our sun, but shortly after that things start to improve. At least that is conventional wisdom.
A new study by a trio of European researchers recently revealed a grander theory about black hole formation. They say that under the right conditions, black holes could become so massive that the only way to describe their size would be astonishingly large.[Read: How this company leveraged AI to become the Netflix of Finland]
These hypothetical cosmic units, known as SLABs (Amazingly Large Black Holes), could be inconceivably larger than their paltry supermassive counterparts due to their completely different composition.
When SMBHs grow large by engulfing dying stars and / or merging with other black holes, SLABs are considered primal and would therefore precede the formation of stars and galaxies.
According to a press release from the university:
Since no “original” black holes form from a collapsing star, they can have a wide variety of masses, including very small and astonishingly large.[Project lead] Professor Bernard Carr said, “We already know that black holes exist over a wide range of masses, with an SMBH of four million solar masses at the center of our own galaxy. While there is currently no evidence for the existence of SLABs, it is conceivable that they exist and could also be located outside of galaxies in intergalactic space.
Take quickly: The existence of myriad pristine black holes scattered in the darkness of space, ranging from tiny to unfathomably large, is pretty cool, but the real selling point here is what finding these holes could tell you about dark matter.
We can’t prove dark matter exists because we haven’t found one yet, but we’re pretty sure the vast majority of the universe is made up of it. Many scientists believe that black holes are closely related to dark matter because of the way they deal with gravity.
Tracking down and observing SLABs could serve to solve some of the puzzles surrounding the origin of the universe and, when properly correlated with other hypothetical types of black holes, ultimately point to the first measurable human observation of dark matter in the background of the universe.
You can read the team’s research paper here.
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