Astronomers find universe's most distant quasar (w/ video)

Most distant quasar found
This artist’s impression shows how ULAS J1120+0641, a very distant quasar powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun, may have looked. This quasar is the most distant yet found and is seen as it was just 770 million years after the Big Bang. This object is by far the brightest object yet discovered in the early Universe. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

( -- A team of European astronomers has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope and a host of other telescopes to discover and study the most distant quasar found to date. This brilliant beacon, powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun, is by far the brightest object yet discovered in the early Universe. The results will appear in the 30 June 2011 issue of the journal Nature.

"This quasar is a vital probe of the early Universe. It is a very rare object that will help us to understand how supermassive black holes grew a few hundred million years after the Big Bang," says Stephen Warren, the study's team leader.

are very bright, distant galaxies that are believed to be powered by supermassive black holes at their centres. Their brilliance makes them powerful beacons that may help to probe the era when the first stars and galaxies were forming. The newly discovered quasar is so far away that its light probes the last part of the reionisation era.

The quasar that has just been found, named ULAS J1120+0641, is seen as it was only 770 million years after the Big Bang (redshift 7.1). It took 12.9 billion years for its light to reach us.

This ESOcast is about the discovery of the most distant quasar found to date. This brilliant beacon is powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun. It is by far the brightest object yet discovered in the early Universe. Credit: ESO

Although more distant objects have been confirmed (such as a gamma-ray burst at redshift 8.2, and a galaxy at redshift 8.6), the newly discovered quasar is hundreds of times brighter than these. Amongst objects bright enough to be studied in detail, this is the most distant by a large margin.

The next most-distant quasar is seen as it was 870 million years after the Big Bang (redshift 6.4). Similar objects further away cannot be found in visible-light surveys because their light, stretched by the expansion of the Universe, falls mostly in the infrared part of the spectrum by the time it gets to Earth. The European UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) which uses the UK's dedicated infrared telescope in Hawaii was designed to solve this problem. The team of astronomers hunted through millions of objects in the UKIDSS database to find those that could be the long-sought distant quasars, and eventually struck gold.

"It took us five years to find this object," explains Bram Venemans, one of the authors of the study. "We were looking for a quasar with redshift higher than 6.5. Finding one that is this far away, at a redshift higher than 7, was an exciting surprise. By peering deep into the reionisation era, this quasar provides a unique opportunity to explore a 100-million-year window in the history of the cosmos that was previously out of reach."

The distance to the quasar was determined from observations made with the FORS2 instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) and instruments on the Gemini North Telescope. Because the object is comparatively bright it is possible to take a spectrum of it (which involves splitting the light from the object into its component colours). This technique allowed the astronomers to find out quite a lot about the quasar.

These observations showed that the mass of the black hole at the centre of ULAS J1120+0641 is about two billion times that of the Sun. This very high mass is hard to explain so early on after the Big Bang. Current theories for the growth of supermassive black holes predict a slow build-up in mass as the compact object pulls in matter from its surroundings.

"We think there are only about 100 bright quasars with redshift higher than 7 over the whole sky," concludes Daniel Mortlock, the leading author of the paper. "Finding this object required a painstaking search, but it was worth the effort to be able to unravel some of the mysteries of the early ."

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Jun 29, 2011
We think there are only about 100 bright quasars with redshift higher than 7 over the whole sky
Talk about needle in a haystack!
With only 100 of these things predicted to exist you'd think they'd come up with a better name than "ULAS J1120 0641" though.

Jun 29, 2011
Say what???

Argon, I'd love to have a more constructive response to your comment, but I am dumb-struck.

Jun 29, 2011
"If you can't take a real untouched photo or equivalent and explain it to your audience and instead hire some artist to draw up your fantasies it is no longer in the realm of science but of imagination!"

"If all they have is an infrared picture than so be it: let's see it!"

It's not an "untouched" photo, Argon (actually it's an image created from 3 IR images from 3 different scopes): http://www.eso.or...so1122b/

Actually, the paper in Nature has a much more informative spectrum of this object[Fig 1] (along with a diagram of the observed Lyman-alpha forest in the quasar's direction[Fig 2]): http://www.eso.or...1122.pdf

" leaves me with a sense that they don't want you to know what they can actually see."

I'm curious, what would they be hiding?

Jun 29, 2011
Just ignore Argon. He's a creationist. I have no idea what he's even doing on a science website.

Jun 30, 2011
Dont they mean the visible universe instead of the whole universe?

Jun 30, 2011
you mean like those artists that wrote the bible?

Jun 30, 2011
"[The] very high mass is hard to explain so early on after the Big Bang."

The discovery of SMBHs at redshifts higher than z=6 are problematic for models of BH growth by Eddington-limited gas accretion. It seems that formation of LMBH (below ~300 M_Sun) from remnants of Pop III stars cannot reasonably reproduce the observed population of early SMBHs.

Another route to early SMBHs being explored is the formation of massive 'seed' black holes (10E5 to 10E6 M_Sun) in the early universe.

These MBHs may have formed from the direct collapse of pre-galactic gas discs: (and refs therein)

Another scenario invokes the runaway collapse of early nuclear star clusters (and large quantities of surrounding gas) to form these MBHs:

In both cases, subsequent Eddington-limited accretion by these seed MBHs would lead to the observed SMBHs at z=6 and higher.

Jul 03, 2011
Argon's comments "If all they have is an infrared picture than so be it: let's see it!", he should know, shows utter lack of science basics. "infrared" , by definition, is an electromagnetic wave, BELOW the visible spectrum...that's something one can't see. (just like ultraviolet is above the visible spectrum). If he want's the real thing, it's all there. But if he wants to SEE the real thing, astronomy (except waht he sees) is not for him.

Jul 04, 2011
LaViolette has commented that regarding NGC 7319 that the observed red-shift must have occurred within the Schwartzchild radius for a black hole, supporting his theory that quasars are likely finite density supermassive stars, and that black holes singularities do not exist. His theory incorporates a mass-density-dependent, 'genic' energy production (photon blue-shifting) within the core of the star which counters gravitational collapse forces, and leads to many distant core explosions observed. Further, he predicts the tired-light observed red-shift over intergalactic distances, as well as the remaining 50% of the Pioneer Anomaly not yet accounted for.

RJ. Be aware that a few military/intelligence counter-intelligence types likely try to steer the ridicule on this board. They wish to maintain the physics models already in place.

Jul 05, 2011
Arp did not discover what he claimed. He has no evidence that the high red shift galaxy is between the Earth and the low red shift. Arp is an old man that can't handle the evidence that goes against his belief. He hasn't changed a single mind and he is laughed at by the ruder astronomers.

You need real evidence and not crap from the Arp's fuzzy thinking.


Jul 08, 2011
Another recent paper takes a look at accretion of cold gas onto seed MBH and found quasar feedback insufficient to block these massive cold flows of HI gas from falling toward the accretion disk. These massive cold inflows of primordial gas are postulated to be responsible for the observed population of SMBH with z higher than 7.

"Cold flows and the first quasars" Di Matteo et al:

Jul 08, 2011
That's because you can't handle the truth.

What, then, is the truth?

Jul 08, 2011
yyz: Another gold star for you. I wonder how much tinkering is done with these models to get to the right answer. We're surrounded by SMBH's around 10^9 and their simulation predicts 10^9 solar masses to be the leveling off area when accelerated growth from the "cold flows" subside.

"Look, this sweater I made for myself magically fits me perfectly!"

It would be awesome if they just put in gravity and mass and got those results. Does anyone have some insight on the simulation programming process? In broad strokes?

Jul 11, 2011
Arp's data were meticulous collected and accurately depicted
To fit his prejudiced by his wife. None of shows high Z quasars in front of low Z quasars. His claim is based on an alleged bridge.

The conclusions are clear
Clearly based on HIS unwillingness to deal with the truth.

Arp, and other researchers as well
Other = his wife.

have thoroughly debunked the Big Bang
In his and your opinion. The REAL evidence does support the claims.

and BBT adherents can't stand it.
OF course not. It was crappy work.

It galls you that your cherished theory is in the trash can of history.
It galls you that your needs are not met by reality.

You can't stand it that the Standard Model of Cosmology is wrong.
I could stand it quite well if the evidence supported that. It does not. Ranting like that will not make it so.

But the standard model is wrong.
Quite possibly but it works most of the time and there is no replacement that works better.>>

Jul 11, 2011
Big Bang is wrong.
That is your opinion and but the evidence supports the BB so far. However M theory does not need a BB to get a similar result.

Black holes are wrong.
The evidence supports the math. Only cranks like Oliver claim otherwise and of course the people with religious hangups.

Dark matter is wrong.
Utterly false. The only question is how much and what it is. The evidence that there is more matter than we can see is very clear.

None of that nonsense exists and it tears you guys apart.
Ranting is a sign of an emotional attachment to nonsensical crap. You are the one ranting.

That's because you can't handle the truth.
That was pretty childish rant for someone that claims evidence. My bet is you have a religious problem with reality. Most of the people on this site that can't stand the BB are religious. Hard to find a single person with a BB hangup that isn't. Same for Black Holes.


Jul 11, 2011
The truth is that electromagnetism is the dominant formative force in the universe
Nonsense. EM is short range because it has positive and negative and the two cancel out over distance. Gravity is the only long range force.

That is the truth.
That is a fantasy.

it was a simple expression of observable fact.
It was a rant. Emotion charged crap with no valid evidence to support it. The Arp's alleged evidence is simply bad science.

Big Bang Theory was originally elucidated by Belgian Catholic Priest Georges Lemaitre in order to conflate religion and science.
Fantasy. The BB comes from the red shift data vs galactic distances first done by Edwin Hubble. The BB is the logical result of extending the known movement of galaxies back in time. There is nothing religious about it.

Examined in that historical light
Examined in that myth you ignore the actual facts. As seems to be normal for you. It ignores the the real sources, Hubble and Einstein.>>

Jul 11, 2011
Hubble for the evidence and Einstein for GR.

it is easy to see the Big Bang Theory as thinly-veiled creationism.
Well you certainly found it easy to make up shit about it.

don't you think?
I think therefor I know that was crap. I go on the reality of the actual evidence instead of trying to invent a new history hide from the reality of Hubble and Einstein.

I am rather convinced that a fervently religious type of faith is required if one is to believe in
Now that is religious belief since it is clearly based on your faith. I have no religion. I am going on the evidence.

The Electric Universe is pure Crankery. They used to lie about Alfven doing actual experiments that proved the existence of intergalactic currents. It was total nonsense as the claim was both false and impossible since it requires intergalactic travel.


Jul 13, 2011

Jul 13, 2011
"Shouldn't be long but could take up to a generation for the most senior holdouts to retire and/or pass away if that's what it takes for them to release their iron grip on peer-review journals and academia."

Would that include Arp and Verschuur, both widely noted in EU literature and websites, neither of whom endorse or write papers on EU theory?

Jul 14, 2011
Some folks are going to be mighty embarrassed
Some folks should be embarrassed to push Crankery. Plasma Universe sites push idiotic ideas like the Sun is powered by interstellar electric currents.

Someone should start a wagering pool
Please do so. Just make that it has an official end date. Otherwise it would just be an attempt to steal by the money holder since Cranks almost never admit to error.

Shouldn't be long but could take up to a generation for the most senior holdouts
So when are you and Yep going to quit Cranking by way of death?

if that's what it takes
What it takes is EVIDENCE. It would really help if that utter rubbish about electrically powered suns and cosmic electric ZAPS causing Super Nova were to be expunged from all the Plasma sites as those ideas require magic power sources to charge up the plasma since the plasma can't be formed by solar power if the plasma is supposed to the source of the solar power.>>

Jul 14, 2011
Do you have a source of power that does not violate the Laws of Thermodynamics?

Learn electrical engineering
Learn the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Funny how are ranting AGAIN without actually showing any error in my reply to you.

why magnetic fields include electric currents
Would you like to explain just what magnetism is? No one has managed. Ever. Lots of nice equations but no actual explanation. The equations don't support the ludicrous claims about the Sun being powered by currents for outer space.

what happens when the current supporting a huge magnetic field is stopped (explosive!)
Where did the energy come from? Magical incantations?

which should prove refreshing after such a long steady diet of dark balderdash
Crankery is never refreshing. The difference between real science and Crankery is the in real science people know that we don't have all the answers. In Crank science the Cranks think they know everything. Except how to stop ranting.


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