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Old 26-06-2020, 01:08 PM
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Most massive quasar known in early universe discovered. 1.5e9 solar mass black hole

Originally Posted by Daniel Stolte, University of Arizona, 26th June 2020
Astronomers have discovered the most massive quasar known in the early universe, containing a monster black hole with a mass equivalent to 1.5 billion suns. Formally designated as J1007+2115, the newly discovered quasar is one of only two known from the same cosmological period. Quasars are the most energetic objects in the universe, and since their discovery, astronomers have been keen to determine when they first appeared in our cosmic history.

In honor of its discovery via telescopes on Maunakea, a mountain revered in the Hawaiian culture, the quasar was given the Hawaiian name Pōniuāʻena, meaning "unseen spinning source of creation, surrounded with brilliance." It is the first quasar to receive an Indigenous name, which was created by 30 Hawaiian immersion school teachers during a workshop led by the A Hua He Inoa group, a Hawaiian naming program led by the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai'i.

According to current theory, quasars are powered by supermassive black holes. As the black holes gobble up surrounding matter such as dust, gas or even entire stars, they emit tremendous amounts of energy, resulting in luminosities known to outshine entire galaxies.

The supermassive black hole powering Pōniuāʻena makes this quasar the most distant, and therefore earliest, object known in the universe to host a black hole exceeding 1 billion solar masses. According to a new study documenting the quasar's discovery, the light from Pōniuāʻena took 13.02 billion years to reach Earth starting its journey just 700 million years after the Big Bang.

"It's the earliest monster of this kind that we know of," said Jinyi Yang, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory and lead author of the study, which will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. "The time was too short for it to grow from a small black hole to the enormous size we see."

The question of how such a massive black hole could materialize when the universe was still in its infancy has vexed astronomers and cosmologists for a long time, said co-author Xiaohui Fan, Regents' Professor and associate head of the UArizona Department of Astronomy.

"This discovery presents the biggest challenge yet for the theory of black hole formation and growth in the early universe," Fan said.

The notion that a black hole of Pōniuāʻenas proportions could have evolved from a much smaller black hole formed by the collapse of a single star in such a short time since the Big Bang is next to impossible, according to current cosmological models.

Instead, the study authors suggest that the quasar would have had to start out as a "seed" black hole already containing the equivalent mass of 10,000 suns as early as 100 million years after the Big Bang.
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