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Thursday July 25, 2024

Super Quasar: Brightest object in universe which eats sun every day 'hiding in plain sight'

This quasar is driven by fastest-growing black hole in universe's history

By Web Desk
February 20, 2024
An artist’s impression of the brightest object ever discovered – a quasar powered by a black hole that Australian National University scientists first spotted using a 2.3m telescope. — EPA/File
An artist’s impression of the brightest object ever discovered – a quasar powered by a black hole that Australian National University scientists first spotted using a 2.3m telescope. — EPA/File

Researchers claim that a quasar, which is 500 times brighter than our sun and the brightest object in the cosmos, was "hiding in plain sight".

A quasar driven by the fastest-growing black hole ever found was discovered by Australian astronomers. With a mass almost 17 billion times that of the sun in our solar system, it consumes one sun per day, according to The Guardian.

Over 12 billion years passed before the light from the heavenly object reached Earth.

Scientists at the Australian National University's NSW Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran initially noticed it with a 2.3-metre telescope. They subsequently used the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which has an 8-metre primary mirror, to confirm the discovery.

Nature Astronomy has published the results of the ANU researchers' work with the ESO, the University of Melbourne, and the Sorbonne Université in France.

Christian Wolf, the primary author and associate professor at ANU, claimed that it was the most brilliant object in the universe and that its amazing pace of growth implied a "huge release of light and heat." He also expressed doubt that its record would ever be surpassed.

An "accretion disc" with a diameter of seven light years is the source of the light. Before it reaches the event horizon, the material is drawn into and swirling around the black hole in that disc.

Massive quantities of heat and light are produced when that material collides with other materials.

“It looks like a gigantic and magnetic storm cell with temperatures of 10,000 degrees Celsius, lightning everywhere and winds blowing so fast they would go around Earth in a second,” Wolf said.

“This storm cell is seven light-years across, which is 50% more than the distance from our solar system to the next star in the galaxy, Alpha Centauri,” he added.

It was "hiding in plain sight," according to co-author Dr Christopher Onken, who also noted that it was unexpected that it had gone unnoticed for this long.

Wolf stated that he felt two different ways about the finding.

“One part is a bit of a shock and awe moment, imagining this hellish place … imagining these conditions, and that nature does produce something even more extreme than we’ve contemplated previously,” he said.

“The other is a bit of cheeky joy – we found it! Nature does not make it easy, it’s like ‘ah, there you are!’.”