Quasar Found 420 Trillion Times Brighter Than Our Sun

stars and galaxies
Image Credit: Jerry Thomas

An international team of astronomers have discovered a huge quasar 420 trillion times brighter than our sun around 12.8 billion light years away from Earth, placing its formation around 875 million years after the big bang. The ancient object is powered by a massive black hole and contains a staggering 12 billion solar masses, surprising scientists who had not expected such a huge bright quasar so close to the dawn of time. The quasar was found using telescopes located in China, Hawaii, Arizona, and Chile, and as Xue-Bing Wu, of Peking University, explains:

“How could we have this massive black hole when the universe was so young? We don’t currently have a satisfactory theory to explain it.”

A quasar is a region at the centre of a galaxy surrounding a supermassive black hole, whose energy is derived from mass falling into the black hole. This in turn produces an incredible amount of light and radiation pressure, which scientists believe slows other material from falling into the black hole. However, the quasar, named J0100+2802, has scientists now reexamining long held beliefs as in order for the black hole to expand to such a massive size in less than 900 million years it must have been sucking in the surrounding interstellar mass at near the maximum possible rate. Commenting on the latest discovery, Yuri Beletsky from Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, said:

“This quasar is a unique laboratory to study the way that a quasar’s black hole and host galaxy co-evolve. 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.”

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