Australian astronomers have identified the fastest-growing black hole recorded to date - consuming the equivalent of one Sun every day. 

The discovery not only sets a new record for growth rate but also highlights the black hole as the most luminous object known in the universe - 200 trillion times brighter than the Sun.

The black hole, with a mass around 17 billion times that of the Sun, was initially detected using a modest 2.3 metre telescope at ANU's Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales. 

Further observations and measurements, conducted with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, confirmed its immense mass and extraordinary luminosity.

“It’s a surprise it remained undetected until now, given what we know about many other, less impressive black holes. It was hiding in plain sight, said Dr Christopher Onken, a co-author of the study.

The light from this giant has travelled over 12 billion years to reach Earth, offering scientists a glimpse into the universe's formative years. 

“In the adolescent universe, matter was moving chaotically and feeding hungry black holes. Today, stars are moving orderly at safe distances and only rarely plunge into black holes,” says Professor Rachel Webster from the University of Melbourne.

The experts describe the environment around the black hole as being like a massive storm cell, complete with temperatures reaching 10,000 degrees Celsius, rampant lightning, and winds that could circle Earth in a second. 

“This storm cell is seven light years across, which is 50 per cent more than the distance from our solar system to the next star in the Galaxy, alpha Centauri,” lead author Associate Professor Christian Wolf said. 

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Astronomy.