WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Astronomers from an international team have made a new discovery: the brightest quasar found in the early universe. The discovery is powered by the most massive black hole observed for an object from that time, as reported by Astronomy Now.

For those of you wondering what a quasar is – have no fear. Quasars are massive black holes found at the center of distance galaxies which accumulate surrounding materials and then release a substantial amount of their gravitational energy. Quasars can be measured by how much the wavelength of light emitted from it reaches us on Earth and how it is stretched by the expansion of the universe. This quasar had a redshift of z = 6.30. The higher a redshift, the further the distance and time passed.

This quasar, which has been named SDSS J0100+2802, was reportedly formed 900 million years after the Big Bang and is 12.8 billion light-years from Earth.

“This quasar is a unique laboratory to study the way that a quasar’s black hole and host galaxy co-evolve,” team-leader Xue-Bing Wu of Peking University and the Kavli Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics told Astronomy Now, “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.”

Wu also noted that this quasar may help us find out more about the universe through its glowing light. There are only 40 known quasars with a redshift above 6, which marks the beginning of the early universe.

Prior to this discovery, the brightest quasar known was 13 billion light-years away. The newly discovered black hole is seven times brighter than that and 420 trillion times more luminous than our sun. Researchers claim the cosmic light defies convention.

“Just like a lighthouse sitting in a dark, distant universe,” Wu said, as reported by The Washington Post, “it gives us a chance to see things in between our own planet and the black hole by illuminating them. It provides a unique chance to understand things between the distant galaxy and ours.”

This study was first published Wednesday in Nature.


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