Feeds

Scientists spot really, really big black hole

More energy than 20 trillion suns

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Infographic

The discovery of a 12.7bn light-year distant supermassive black hole has challenged astronomers' understanding of star and galaxy formation. NASA's Chandra X-Ray observatory spotted the object, which is generating energy at the rate of twenty trillion suns, at the heart of a quasar formed less than a billion years after the big bang.

Astronomers Daniel Schwartz and Shanil Virani of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics discovered the quasar, known as SDSSp J1306. They found that its X-ray spectrum is a near perfect match to nearer, and hence older (or at least longer lived) quasars. Meanwhile, optical measurements suggest the quasar is a billion times more massive than our sun. Their results have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

This similarity between the young and old supermassive black holes means that the objects form much earlier in the universe's history than previously imagined. By way of explanation, scientists suggest that the super massive black holes might have formed from millions of smaller black holes. These smaller objects, left over from the collapses of young, very massive stars gradually merged, creating a billion solar mass black hole at the centre of the galaxy.

"[The] results seem to indicate that the way supermassive black holes produce X-rays has remained essentially the same from a very early date in the Universe," said Schwartz. "This implies that the central black hole engine in a massive galaxy was formed very soon after the big bang."

This is the second so-called "early epoch" supermassive blackhole to be discovered. In August this year scientists from the UK and from Caltech reported discovering a similar quasar at a distance of 12.8bn light years using the XMM-Newton X-ray satellite. They found essentially the same result for the X-ray spectrum as the Smithsonian scientists have just announced.

Astronomers now plan to use the Chandra X-ray observatory to hunt for quasars even further back in the history of the universe. ®

Related stories

Boffins baffled by suburban quasars
Astronomers probe Cassiopeia's secrets
Astronomers uncover mystery at galactic core

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.