An enormous black hole about 12 billion times the mass of our Sun has been discovered by a group of astronomers at Peking University in China. Most black holes are formed from fragments of a large star that die in a supernova explosion. A black hole’s radius increases in proportion to its mass and it continues to grow as it feeds off mass from space matters or by merging with other black holes.
“By comparison, our own Milky Way Galaxy has a black hole with a mass of only 4 million solar masses at its center; the black hole that powers this new quasar is 3,000 time heavier,” said Dr. Xiaohui Fan from the University of Arizona.
Black holes usually take billions of years to build up in size. However, this gigantic black hole baffles scientists as it is considered an infant, formed just less than 900 billion of years after the Big Bang. Acccording to Dr. Fuyan Bian of the Australian National University, “The discovery challenges theories of how black holes form and grow in the early Universe. Forming such a large black hole so quickly is hard to interpret with current theories.”
This black hole is hosted by SDSS J0100+2802 which is the most luminous quasar known to date. Compared to our own Sun, SDSS J0100+2802 has a luminosity of 420 trillion suns and is seven times brighter than the most distant quasar known. This super luminous quasar was found at redshift of z-6.30. This can be used to calculate the age of the quasar and the distance from Earth, as it measures how much the wavelight of light emitted from the quasar that reaches Earth is stretched by the expansion of the Universe.
“This quasar is very unique. Just like the brightest lighthouse in the distant Universe, its glowing light will help us to probe more about the early Universe,” said Dr Xue-Bing Wu of Peking University and the Kavli Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
In theory, the light from a quasar is thought to limit the growth of black holes. “However this black hole at the center of the quasar gained enormous mass in a short period of time,” noted Dr. Fuyun Bian. “This ultraluminous quasar with its supermassive black hole provides a unique laboratory to the study of the mass assembly and galaxy formation around the most massive black holes in the early Universe,” Dr Fan also commented.
SDSS J0100+2802 was first discovered by a 2.4-meter Lijiang Telescope by a group of observers in Yunnan, China. Thus, this is by far the only quasar ever discovered by a 2-meter telescope at that distant. “The ultraluminous nature of this quasar will allow us to make unprecedented measurements of the temperature, ionization state and metal content of the intergalactic medium at the epoch of reionization.” stated Feige Wang, a doctoral student from Peking University.
The discovery of this massive black hole along with its unique ultraluminous quasar poses a perplexing question for scientist. On the other hand, this will also shed light about the early universe.