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Artist’s concept of the most distant supermassive black hole known. Photo: Robin Dienel, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science

A supermassive black hole, with the staggering mass of 800 million of our suns, is a new discovery described in the latest issue of Nature.

The quasar J1342+0928 lies at the cusp of the cosmic dawn, the earliest primal heart of our very universe – making its incredible size all the more impressive, according to the scientists.

“The new quasar is itself one of the first galaxies, and yet it already harbors a behemoth black hole as massive as others in the present-day Universe,” said Xiaohui Fan, one of the authors from the University of Arizona.

The black hole is pinpointed to a location of when the universe was 690-million-years-old, or roughly five percent of its current age, according to the calculations.

NASA, in a statement on the find, called it “astonishingly large for its young age.”

The black hole was discovered through an exhaustive search of a tenth of the sky – and a series of cutting-edge tools to look into the cosmic dawn, when the first galaxies and stars were formed from the Big Bang.

The tools included the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer coupled with ground-based surveys, which provided a list of objects to study through the Chile-based Carnegie Observatories’ Magellan telescopes.

Also involved were: the DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS), a data set using the Dark Energy Camera on the Blanco 4-m telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory; the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) Large Area Survey; and the near-infrared spectrograph on the Gemini North Telescope.

“DECaLS was designed from the ground up as a public project, so it is wonderful to see the data enabling exciting discoveries that are pushing the boundaries of the known universe,” said Arjun Dey, of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, one of the leaders of DECaLS.

The light that was measured from the exceedingly distant quasar has been a long time in coming: approximately 13 billion years for it to reach humanity’s instruments on Earth, according to NASA.

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