About 12 million light years from us is a black hole making a huge impact on a nearby star. The black hole, known as P13, is gobbling up the “weight equivalent to 100 billion hot dogs every minute.” Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest better start getting the hot dogs together.
As gas from the nearby star fell towards the black hole, it brightens. Astronomers, including Dr. Roberto Soria, assumed the brightness was directly related to the size of the black hole.
“It was generally believed the maximum speed at which a black hole could swallow gas and produce light was tightly determined by its size,” Soria said in a press release.
But on further inspection, Soria and his fellow astronomers found P13 was actually a lightweight. Despite being smaller than expected, P13 shined more than a million times brighter than our sun.
“There’s not really a strict limit like we thought, black holes can actually consume more gas and produce more light,” says Soria.
What about the star being consumed by P13? It’s a supergiant with a mass 20 times larger than our Sun. Meanwhile, P13 is “less than 15 times the mass of our Sun,” according to Soria.
Soria made a light-hearted comparison of the ravenous P13 to the hot dog eating champ 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 said.
P13 sits in a class of black holes known as ultraluminous X-ray sources. That supergiant P13 is devouring? It won’t last a million years. That’s not Joey Chestnut fast, but on a cosmic scale – it’s pretty quick.
How quickly could it eat Earth? Space.com says it could knock out the mass of Earth “every four years.”
The discovery of P13 was published in the journal Nature.
Image credit: Tom Russell (ICRAR)