Astronomers find fastest-growing black hole known in space

May 15, 2018, Australian National University
A bright, supermassive black hole. Credit: NASA

Astronomers at ANU have found the fastest-growing black hole known in the Universe, describing it as a monster that devours a mass equivalent to our sun every two days.

The astronomers have looked back more than 12 billion years to the early dark ages of the Universe, when this supermassive black hole was estimated to be the size of about 20 billion suns with a one per cent growth rate every one million years.

"This black hole is growing so rapidly that it's shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy, due to all of the gases it sucks in daily that cause lots of friction and heat," said Dr Wolf from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"If we had this monster sitting at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, it would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon. It would appear as an incredibly bright pin-point star that would almost wash out all of the stars in the sky."

Dr Wolf said the energy emitted from this newly discovered supermassive black hole, also known as a quasar, was mostly ultraviolet light but also radiated x-rays.

"Again, if this monster was at the centre of the Milky Way it would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of x-rays emanating from it," he said.

The SkyMapper telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory detected this light in the near-infrared, as the light waves had red-shifted over the billions of light years to Earth.

"As the Universe expands, space expands and that stretches the waves and changes their colour," Dr Wolf said.

"These large and rapidly-growing blackholes are exceedingly rare, and we have been searching for them with SkyMapper for several months now. The European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, which measures tiny motions of celestial objects, helped us find this supermassive black hole."

Dr Wolf said the Gaia satellite confirmed the object that they had found was sitting still, meaning that it was far away and it was a candidate to be a very large quasar.

The discovery of the new supermassive black hole was confirmed using the spectrograph on the ANU 2.3 metre telescope to split colours into spectral lines.

"We don't know how this one grew so large, so quickly in the early days of the Universe," Dr Wolf said.     

"The hunt is on to find even faster-growing ."

Dr Wolf said as these kinds of black holes shine, they can be used as beacons to see and study the formation of elements in the early galaxies of the Universe.

"Scientists can see the shadows of objects in front of the supermassive black hole," he said.

"Fast-growing also help to clear the fog around them by ionising gases, which makes the Universe more transparent."

Dr Wolf said instruments on very large ground-based telescopes being built over the next decade would be able to directly measure the expansion of the Universe using these very bright black holes.    

Explore further: Image: Computer simulation of a supermassive black hole

More information: Discovery of the most ultra-luminous QSO using Gaia, SkyMapper and WISE. arXiv:1805.04317 [astro-ph.GA]

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Display comments: newest first

4.2 / 5 (5) May 15, 2018
I guess only in astronomy, is 1% growth in a million years, considered rapid growth.
2.1 / 5 (14) May 15, 2018
The AGN is likely much closer and not nearly as bright as these folks would have one think.
5 / 5 (5) May 15, 2018
Well Free, would you rather have 99% of 1 million dollars or 1% of a billion dollars? This quasar is an enormous mass of materials in every phase.

cd8, why do you opinionate that the estimated distance and timescale have to be wrong? Because if you have some verifiable evidence for your opinion, you will pretty well have overthrown more than a century of astronomical empirical evidence.

mack, yes, that is an important point to consider. A sobering realization that researchers have to take care that they do not confuse their perception of success before confirming the data collected.

It comes down to whether the method of reasoning used is 'deductive' 'inductive' or abductive'.
4.3 / 5 (6) May 15, 2018
@rrwillsj - I too await the Benni sock puppet accounts to refute Gaia's telemetry data. From the paper, Section 2.1 Selection and photometry:

"However, the main contaminants of the search box for high-z QSOs are nearby Galactic stars of low mass and temperature, which can now be identified very reliably from the proper motions in the Gaia database. Hence, immediately after the release of Gaia DR2 on 25 April 2018, we searched for red objects using Bp − Rp in the Gaia database that are consistent with having no significant proper motion [...]

J2157-3602 appears in Gaia DR2 as a single isolated source; the nearest neighbour detected by Gaia is ∼42 arcsec away, while the resolution achieved by Gaia reaches up to ∼ 0.1 arcsec. [1] Gaia is complete to magnitude Rp ≈ 19, while our object is ∼ 2 mag brighter; this suggests that the brightness of the object is not boosted by strong gravitational lensing."
1.8 / 5 (10) May 15, 2018
cd8, why do you opinionate that the estimated distance and timescale have to be wrong? Because if you have some verifiable evidence for your opinion, you will pretty well have overthrown more than a century of astronomical empirical evidence.

Halton Arp pointed out that redshift vs distance was falsified almost 50 years ago. And he was kicked out of Mt. Wilson for doing so. And he was ignored for the remaining 40-years of his life, but I'm sure you'll listen to me instead of the most brilliant astronomer of our time.
1.7 / 5 (6) May 15, 2018
"A bright, supermassive black hole." Bright?
Da Schneib
4.1 / 5 (9) May 15, 2018
The paper is open source at the arXiv link given in the article above; it has been accepted for publication in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia but not yet published.

Since @cantthink69 claims to believe there is some technical inaccuracy in the paper, perhaps it would care to point this supposed inaccuracy out since it's open source.
Da Schneib
3.9 / 5 (11) May 16, 2018
The thing about the Gaia catalog is that it automatically includes parallax data. This means redshift is no longer the only distance gauge. Now add to that the Type 1a supernova data and three distance gauges can be found. The argument that supernova characteristics have changed over the lifetime of the universe cannot be used to argue steady state for obvious reasons so anyone, for example the Thunderdolts, who tries to argue this way destroys their own argument. The astrophysics community has rejected unfounded theories so the interpretation of these objects has become the accretion disks of supermassive black holes; nothing else has the power to make such bright objects at such high red shifts.

Multiple lines of argument reject redshift quantization, from statistics to spectroscopy to logic. Redshift quantization is a failed theory.
1 / 5 (6) May 16, 2018
Talking Nonsense again!
What is not good for science or for conscious human beings?
 Firstly, it is claimed (there is no possibility for proof), that everything came from nothing (the appearance of a large powder). The lowest estimate of this stubbornness is, it's idiocy, and not science.
 Second, to speak about some phenomena, and at all do not understand the sequence of the formation process of matter and matter, and everything from matter, such as all particles from subatomic to cluster galaxies. There science fell into the "black hole of anti-science." With these researchers, their heads are filled with dark, matter and dark energy, which they themselves "formed. These are their brain virtual particles, without which they could not broadcast such powerful waves of ignorance and disrespect for the one who formed them.
4.1 / 5 (9) May 16, 2018
"A bright, supermassive black hole." Bright?

The accretion disk is bright.

The idea what object makes up the black hole isn't really well defined. The event horizon is just some defined distance, but isn't anything physical. The black hole mass at the center is a singularity - or not, and the accretion disk or the polar jets - are they part of the black hole or just the 'black hole system'?
It's a bit like saying "planet" or "neutron star" (Are the jets part of the neutron star or not? What about planets that barely fit or don't fit the description?).

One should not get hung up over the words.
4 / 5 (12) May 16, 2018
So many potential Nobel prize winners among the commenters, if only they would publish their research...
3.8 / 5 (10) May 16, 2018
I know @Mack it's a huge conspiracy against you
4.6 / 5 (10) May 16, 2018
I know @Mack it's a huge conspiracy against you

Didn't you know? We are all employed by the world-wide-scientist-conspiracy-cabal to keep mackita/Zeph from publishing his enormous findings and revolutionizing the world.
Haven't you been getting your regular cheques?
2 / 5 (4) May 16, 2018
Please PM next when/where for sll our plotting and cackling. Also, was it funny hats this year..?
4.4 / 5 (7) May 16, 2018
The AGN is likely much closer and not nearly as bright as these folks would have one think.

Wrong. Gaia measures parallax. If this object was nearby it would have recorded a shift against the background. Read the article at least, even if the paper is beyond you.
Hold a thumb up at arms length. Look at it with your left eye, with your right eye closed. Then close your left eye and open the right eye. What is happening to the finger as viewed against the background? Get it? Thought not. This is the sort of data that shows that Arp was wrong, as has been known for some time.
1 / 5 (2) May 22, 2018
The AGN is likely much closer and not nearly as bright as these folks would have one think.

Indeed, as light climbing out of a gravity well being red shifted would explain.
not rated yet May 26, 2018
Everyone is grappling to understand the concept of time, looks like

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