A group of astronomers found a black hole weighing 30 billion times the mass of our Sun. This is seven thousand times more than the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

According to the press release of Durham University, the newly discovered black hole is the first ever found using gravitational lensing. The research article is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“This particular black hole, which is roughly 30 billion times the mass of our Sun, is one of the biggest ever detected and on the upper limit of how large we believe black holes can theoretically become, so it is an extremely exciting discovery,” says James Nightingale, a physicist at Durham University.

The team identified the black hole by modeling the different pathways light might take through the universe, depending on the presence of black holes of varying mass. They then compared the computer data with images of the cosmos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Lo and behold, they found a match.

Astronomers have discovered a new black hole that weighs 30 billion times the mass of the Sun
Graph showing how the Hubble data matches the computer-simulated image

The largest known black hole is TON 618 with a mass of 40 billion solar masses and located 10.37 billion light years away, reports LiveScience. Supermassive black holes are classified as having masses between 10 and 40 billion solar masses, according to NASA’s data.

“Gravitational lensing makes it possible to study inactive black holes, something not currently possible in distant galaxies,” Nightingale added. “This approach could let us detect many more black holes beyond our local universe and reveal how these exotic objects evolved further back in cosmic time.”

The discovery of new black holes of such a gigantic scale could help astrophysicists solve a long-standing mystery: how exactly black holes grow and what determines the limits of their size.