A galaxy 12.4 billion light years away has been spotted stealing mass from three smaller intergalactic neighbours to feed the supermassive black hole at its centre.
The cannibalism fuels the celestial object and has allowed it to become the brightest galaxy ever seen by astronomers, with a brightness of 350 trillion suns.
It has been dubbed W2256 by astronomers who were able to spot the streams of matter being plundered from nearby galaxies fin order to maintain its incredible brightness.
W2256 belongs to a rare class of quasars – a massive and extremely remote celestial object – known as Hot, Dust-Obscured Galaxy (HotDOG) and only one out of every 3,000 quasars belongs to this class.
Observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reveal the interstellar robbery as astronomers were able to witness the flow of matter from one galaxy to another.
It is not the largest or most massive galaxy ever mapped, but it is unrivalled in its brightness.
This galaxy’s luminosity is powered by a tiny disk of gas that is being superheated as it spirals in on the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s centre.
Surrounding dust absorbs this fantastically bright light and emits it as infrared radiation.