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Astronomers found only the brightest quasar in the early universe

Astronomers have just discovered a galaxy with a supermassive black hole in the core and over 1 2.8 billion light-years…

Astronomers have just discovered a galaxy with a supermassive black hole in the core and over 1

2.8 billion light-years away from Earth, just a billion years shy of the Big Bang . Known as a quasar, this object is the brightest of its kind ever seen in the distant universe. The discovery gives researchers a better look at the early years of the universe and helps them understand how supermassive black holes are formed and developed. The newfound quasar, called UHS J043947.08 + 163415.7, was discovered using gravitational lensing, a phenomenon in which the light of a distant object is magnified by the gravity of a closer object. The intervening or lensing galaxy in this case makes the quaser 50 times brighter than it otherwise would. [Big Bang to Civilization: 10 Amazing Origin Events]

“The reason why this was discovered was – a little fortunate indeed – because the quaser is so bright and the lens galaxy is very weak compared to any other lens galaxies we know,” leading author and astronomer Xiaohui Fan, from the University of Arizona, told Live Science. “That object had been in the database for a few years now, but no one had looked at that part of the sky for quasars, because we usually don’t.”

The quasar was found in the constellation Taurus, which is near the road for the road in the way. Astronomers generally avoid looking for quasars in this region, as the abundance of stars and dust drown out the weak quasar light.

The quasar was first depicted in several colors by two all-sky surveys, UKIRT Hemisphere Survey and PanStARRS1. Astronomers typically use computer algorithms that compare colors to identify high-rhythm objects, the significance of which has shifted light from these objects to the scanned wavelengths of the spectrum as a result of moving away from us. If the lancing galaxy in this system was only half an order of magnitude, scientists can completely miss the quasar. Fan said that this type of severe color selection criteria probably caused other quasars to be overlooked.

“At such great distances, [quasars] is also extremely rare,” says Laura Pentericci, an astronomer studying distant galaxies at the INAF Rome Astronomical Observatory but not part of the new study. For example, after looking for over a decade, astronomers have found only two quasars that are more than 13 billion light-years away, Pentericci told Live Science. Fortunately, the recently studied quasar and galaxy were only bright enough to flag as potential remote universe objects. The astronomers then analyzed data showing the individual wavelengths issued by the quasar. By analyzing these specific wavelengths of light, especially one emitted by magnesium, astronomers could confirm the distance of the quasar.

The light from quasars J0439 + 1634, about 12.8 billion light-years away, bends as it passes by a galaxy about six billion light-years away. This gravitational lensing, thanks to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, magnifies the distant quasars of light and makes it visible to astronomers. Both the foreground galaxy and the quasar are seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Credit: NASA, ESA, Xiaohui Fan (University of Arizona)

The spectroscopic data also allowed the researchers to estimate the mass of quasars central supermassive black holes; they calculated it in about 700 million times that of the sun. It is over 150 times larger than the black hole in the center of the Milky Way. While the mass of the newfound quasar’s black holes means that it is great for the early universe, it’s not among the biggest, Fan said for Live Science. “Of course, we can only discover the great objects of that time, so almost everything we can discover from that time must be quite large.”

Studies of early quasars give scientists insight into the youth of our universe. Quasars are driven by black holes so they can tell when and how the first black holes were formed. Quasar’s intense light also acts as a lighthouse that shines through intergalactic space. As a quasar light tube toward the earth, it passes the light through intergalactic gas, which absorbs the specific wavelengths of light depending on the temperature and composition of the gas. Astronomers can then decode quasars light to learn about the material between galaxies that are too weak to see directly.

The researchers in the new study are already working to learn more about this newfound quasar. They also plan to re-analyze older data to see if they missed other quasars.

Originally published on Live Science .

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