The quasar J1342+0928 is the oldest and most massive black hole discovered so far. The mass of this gaping abyss is said to be 800 million suns.
The study was published in the journal, Nature, revealing that the supermassive black hole was formed a mere 690 million years after the Big Bang. Ever since then, it’s been devouring matter at an accelerated rate, according to scientists. The behemoth raises new questions about the nature of black holes, especially considering it managed to form when the universe was 5 percent of its current age.
“Quasars are among the brightest and most distant known celestial objects and are crucial to understanding the early Universe,” states Bram Venemans, co-author of the study and staff scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.
Quasars are thought to be supermassive black-holes that devour matter that consists mostly of gas. They are commonly found at the center of the galaxy and are surrounded by a spiraling accretion disk, ultra-hot masses of material. Previous studies suggested these supermassive black holes to release large amounts of light when they rip apart stars and devour matter.
According to the research, the age of this specific quasar was based on distance. The farther a quasar is, the longer it takes for its light to reach Earth.
The record for most distant quasar was previously held by ULAS J1120+0641, which is located at 13.04 billion light years from Earth and was formed about 750 million years after the Big Bang. This new discovery is 13.1 billion light-years away.
The findings were gathered from observatories around the world, including data from Hawaii’s Gemini North observatory and NASA’s space telescope, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.
Eduardo Bañados, lead author of the study and astrophysicist at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, said the next step would be to search for more quasars around the same age as J1342+0928 aid. The goal is to try and develop a “population study” of ancient quasars.
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