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What’s making this galaxy shine with the light of 300 trillion suns?

In a galaxy far, far away — specifically 12.5 billion years from Earth — shines the light of more than 300 trillion suns. NASA’s space telescope Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, WISE, recently discovered the galaxy — the brightest one ever found.

NASA said the galaxy belongs to a new class of objects called ELIRGs, or extremely luminous infrared galaxies, and scientists believe that a black hole inside the galaxy could be the cause of the bright light. Here’s how NASA explained it:

Supermassive black holes draw gas and matter into a disk around them, heating the disk to roaring temperatures of millions of degrees and blasting out high-energy, visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray light. The light is blocked by surrounding cocoons of dust. As the dust heats up, it radiates infrared light.

Scientists have a few theories for the reasoning behind the black hole’s size. One is that it was born that way. Two others center around the idea of bending or breaking the theoretical limit of black hole feeding.

“The massive black holes in ELIRGs could be gorging themselves on more matter for a longer period of time,” said Andrew Blain of University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, a co-author of this report. “It’s like winning a hot-dog-eating contest lasting hundreds of millions of years.”

More research is needed to fully understand what’s causing the galaxy to glow. But NASA said that determining the true mass of this black hole and others could help reveal the history of “this very crucial and frenzied chapter of our cosmos”.

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