One of the largest black holes, with mass over 30 billion times the mass of the Suna team of astronomers discovered, exploiting a phenomenon called “gravitational lensing”.

The colossal black hole is located 2.7 billion light-years from Earth in the brightest galaxy in the Abell 1201 galaxy cluster.

The team, led by the UK’s Durham University, use the gravitational lens, where the gravitational field of a foreground galaxy bends light from a more distant object and magnifies it. It also used simulations with the help of a supercomputer located at this University and ultra-high-resolution images from the telescope NASA’s Hubble to closely examine how light from a black hole bends inside a galaxy hundreds of millions of light-years away from Earth. Astronomers have spotted a supermassive black hole, the first ever found using this technique, in which the team simulates light traveling through the Universe hundreds of thousands of times.

“This black hole, which is about 30 billion times the mass of our Sun, is one of the largest ever detected, and at the upper limit of how big we think they can get theoretically black holes. So it’s an extremely exciting discovery.”says lead author James Nightingale, from Durham University’s Department of Physics.

He adds that gravitational lensing “makes it possible to study inactive black holes, which is not currently possible in distant galaxies. This approach could allow us to detect many more black holes beyond our local universe and reveal how they evolved further back in cosmic time.”

The results of the research are published today in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The image shows an artist’s impression of a black hole, where the black hole’s strong gravitational field distorts the space around it. Credit: ESA/Hubble, Digitized Sky Survey, Nick Risinger (, N. Bartmann