Astronomers discover brightest black hole of early universe
An artist's rendering of a very distant, very ancient quasar, courtesy of the European Southern Observatory. (ESO / M. Kornmesser)
Published Wednesday, February 25, 2015 1:07PM EST
An international team of astronomers has discovered the brightest black hole ever found in the early universe.
The astronomers say the quasar, a massive type of black hole found in distant galaxies, is powered by the biggest black hole ever observed for an object from the early universe.
The “ultraluminous quasar” is located about 12.8 billion light years from Earth, according to the scientists, and was formed about 900 million years after the Big Bang, which scientists estimate occurred nearly 14 billion years ago.
The researchers have named the quasar SDSS J0100+2802.
The discovery will allow scientists to study how other quasars developed in the early days of the universe.
"This quasar is very unique,” research team leader Xue-Bing Wu of Peking University and the Kavli Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, said in a statement.
“Just like the brightest lighthouse in the distant universe, its glowing light will help us to probe more about the early universe.”
The findings are published in the latest edition of the journal Nature.
A black hole is a large amount of matter packed into a small area, creating a strong gravitational field that allows nothing, not even light, to escape.
The astronomers describe quasars as the most luminous beacons in the sky. This newly discovered quasar has a luminosity 420 trillion times that of the sun’s, making it seven times brighter than the most distant quasar, which is 13 billion light years away.
"This quasar is a unique laboratory to study the way that a quasar's black hole and host galaxy co-evolve," said team researcher Yuri Beletsky of the Carnegie Institution.
"Our findings indicate that in the early universe, quasar black holes probably grew faster than their host galaxies, although more research is needed to confirm this idea."