Scientists have identified the fastest growing black hole ever discovered in the newest universe

A supermassive black hole, growing so fast that it glows 7,000 times brighter than the entire Milky Way, has just been discovered, hidden from view.

Every second, an amount of material equivalent to the Earth’s mass falls into this insatiable black hole.

As far as we know, this is the fastest growing black hole in the last 9 billion years – its activity is so fierce that it sends light with many wavelengths blazing into the universe, making it as it is known as a quasar.

The black hole is called SMSS J114447.77-430859.3 – J1144 for short – and the analysis of its properties suggests that the light from its power supply traveled about 7 billion years to reach us, and that it is moving at about 2.6 billion times the mass of the Sun (a fairly respectable size for a supermassive black hole).

And here he was, just hanging on, lurking unnoticed until now. But because of where it is – 18 degrees above the galactic plane – previous studies looking for quasars have just managed to miss it, only 20 degrees above the Milky Way.

“A bit of historically bad luck has become our luck,” astronomer Christopher Onken of the Australian National University told ScienceAlert.

“Searching for distant objects becomes very difficult when you look close to the Milky Way disk – there are so many stars in the foreground that it is very difficult to find rare sources in the background.

“Another team used an ultraviolet satellite to search for these glowing objects across the sky, but J1144 fell into a small gap in their coverage. But the source is bright enough to appear in pictures taken in the sky as early as 1901, so it’s definitely about hiding in the open. “

The gap in ultraviolet research. (Christopher Onken)

In addition to supernova explosions that emit gamma-ray bursts, quasars are the brightest single objects in the universe. They are the result of a supermassive black hole, accumulating matter at great speed, of a huge disk of dust and gas that stops in the black hole like water in the sewer.

It is not the black hole itself that glows, but this material, heated by extreme friction and gravity, producing light across the spectrum.

In addition, astronomers believe that some of the material can be channeled and accelerated along magnetic field lines around the outside of the black hole to the poles, where it is launched into space as high-speed plasma jets. The interaction of these jets with gas in the surrounding galaxy produces radio waves.

But there is something really strange about J1144. Quasars with the same level of activity can be found, but much earlier in the history of the universe, which dates back about 13.8 billion years.

After about 9 billion years, this fierce quasar activity seems to have calmed down somewhat, making J1144 a captivating weirdo. The quasar is so bright that someone with a telescope in the backyard can come out and look at it with their own eyes.

“This black hole is so unusual that although you should never say never, I don’t think we will find another like this,” said astronomer Christian Wolfe of ANU.

“We are pretty sure that this record will not be broken. We have essentially exhausted the sky where objects like this could be hiding.”

But the discovery sparked a new fervor to pursue and compile a census of bright quasars. The team has already confirmed 80 new quasars, with hundreds more candidates to be analyzed and confirmed or excluded.

This means that the astronomical community is close to a complete census of the bright quasars in the relatively recent universe.

“None of them are as vivid as J1144, but they will help paint a fuller picture of how often this phase of rapid growth can be, and it will help us understand the physical mechanism behind it,” Onken said. in front of ScienceAlert.

“Whether it’s rare collisions between huge galaxies, or something special about the environment right around the black hole, or actually the black hole itself – for example, a rapidly rotating black hole can release much more energy than the matter it accumulates. than the one that hardly spins at all. “

In addition, because they are so bright, quasar light can be analyzed to learn more about the faint gas moving between galaxies, Onken said.

This could reveal the flow of gas around the Milky Way galaxy itself, giving us a better understanding of three-dimensional motion in the space around us.

The research team was sent to Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australiaand is available on the arXiv prepress server.

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