After the universe was made, it took a few million years for the first light to shine over the cosmos. The first stars began to form, as did ancient galaxies. As the gas and dust in the center of these galaxies began to spiral around their supermassive black holes, they formed the brightest objects in the entire universe – quasars.
Quasars give us a look at what the universe looked like in its childhood, and scientists are able to look back at these cosmic animals through a telescopic time travel.
A team of scientists recently announced the discovery of the most distant quasar ever observed, dating back to 670 million years after the Big Bang. The quasar was accompanied by the oldest black hole ever observed. But the extreme age of this black hole is not the only remarkable feature ̵
The discovery was announced Tuesday during the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society and is detailed in a study accepted for publication in Astrophysical journal letters.
HERE IS THE BACKGROUND – Quasars were discovered in the 1960s. Their name comes from the fact that they are ‘quasi-star objects’, as a single quasar emits the same amount of light as a trillion trillion, while occupying an area smaller than our solar system.
Scientists believe that quasars form when galaxies have an abundant amount of gas and dust surrounding the black holes in their center, which eventually sprout around and form an accretion disk of overheated material that swirls around.
Due to their high energy, quasars often surpass the galaxies that host them.
What is new – Scientists hunt for these ancient animals as they inform them about the conditions of the early universe and how galaxies are formed and evolved over time. In addition, quasars can also help scientists better understand the relationship between galaxies and the black holes at their center.
A team of researchers from the University of Arizona was able to discover the most distant quasar ever observed, located 13.03 billion. Light years away from Earth. This means that the quasar existed when the universe was only 670 million years old – only five percent of its current age (astronomers believe that the universe is 13.8 billion years old).
The quasar, called J0313-1806, is more than ten trillion times as bright as the sun and has about a thousand times more energy than the entire Milky Way.
Kvasaren hosts a supermassive black hole in the center with a mass of 1.6 billion. Sun. Compared to the supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way, which is 13.67 million times the mass of the sun, it’s a pretty big boy.
Recent observations also show that the quasar has a stream of superheated gas flowing out in the form of high-velocity winds from the surroundings of the black hole at one-fifth the speed of light, according to the study.
Here’s what we do not know – Scientists are confused by how this supermassive black hole was able to form and grow to such a size so early in the universe. In other words, how did it take time to swallow so much surrounding material to reach its enormous size?
“Black holes created by the very first massive stars could not have grown so large in just a few hundred million years,” Feige Wang, a NASA Hubble Fellow at the University of Arizona and lead author of the new paper, said in a statement.
Scientists believe that black holes are formed in the wake of death by a massive star, an explosive supernova or by the feeding of the first generation of stars formed inside a galaxy. They then continue to grow over time by swallowing material that surrounds them.
The team behind the new study calculated that if the black hole had formed as early as 100 million years after the Big Bang and grew as fast as possible, it would still be about 10,000 solar masses and not the huge 1.6 billion that it in the moment can boast.
“This tells you that no matter what you do, the seed for this black hole must have formed by a different mechanism,” said Xiaohui Fan, associate head of the University of Arizona’s Department of Astronomy and co-author of the study in a statement.
“In this case, one involving large amounts of clock, cold hydrogen gas that directly collapses into a black black hole.”
In addition to being too big for its own good, the black hole also consumes the mass equivalent of 25 Suns each year. Scientists believe that supermassive black holes of this size in the early universe are the main reason why ancient galaxies stopped forming stars, with their black holes collecting all the gas and other material needed for the birth of baby stars.
WHAT’S NEXT – The rather turbulent relationship between black holes and their host galaxies in the early universe gives scientists a rare opportunity to examine how galaxies form and evolve over time, and the effects of their supermassive black holes on their growth.
Scientists hope to make further observations of this quasar as well as find more of these quasars in the early universe following the launch of NASA’s James Webb Telescope, which is currently scheduled for October 31, 2021.
Abstract: Distant quasars are unique trace elements to study the formation of the earliest supermassive black holes (SMBHs) and the history of cosmic reionization. Despite extensive efforts, only two quasars have been found at z≥7.5 due to a combination of their low density and the high pollution rate in quasar selection. We report the discovery of a luminous quasar at z = 7.642, J0313-1806, the hitherto known quasar. This quasar has a bolometric brightness of 3.6 × 1013L⊙. Deep spectroscopic observations reveal an SMBH with a mass of (1.6 ± 0.4) × 109M⊙ in this quasar. The existence of such a massive SMBH only ~ 670 million years after the Big Bang challenges essential theoretical models for SMBH growth. In addition, the quasar spectrum exhibits strong broad absorption line functions (BAL) in CIV and SiIV at a maximum speed close to 20% of the speed of light. The relativistic BAL features combined with a strongly blueshifted CIV emission line indicate that there is a strong active galactic core (AGN) driven outflow in this system. ALMA observations record dust continuum and [CII] emission from the quasar host galaxy, giving an exact redshift of 7.6423 ± 0.0013, suggesting that the quasar hosts an intensely star-forming galaxy with a star formation rate of ∼200 M⊙ years – 1 and a dust mass of ∼7 × 107 M⊙ . Follow-up observations of this BAL quasar from the genius era will provide a powerful probe of the effects of AGN feedback on the growth of the earliest massive galaxies.