Astronomers have found the farthest quasar yet seen, and like some others found at this distance, it presents a big (literally) problem: how far away the black hole’s power is from how large it is.
The quasar is named after its coordinates on the sky, J031343.8480180636.4 (let’s call it J0313 for short). It was found in a survey of the sky using the Pan-StarRS, Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, a relatively modest 1.8-meter telescope that still takes very deep images of the sky, using various filters to obtain color information. Surveys the sky using On objects. Very distant quasars are bright in red, but emit very little light at blue wavelengths, making them a little easier to spot.
Once J0313 was identified as a candidate, very large Magellan and Gemini telescopes took a spectrum confirming the vast distance: the light we see from this object travels Over 13 billion years To get here, it means that we see it as it was about 670 million years after the Big Bang!
And this is a problem. Quasar is an object that we call Active galaxy. At the core of every large galaxy is a supermassive black hole, and in some cases the black hole is actively feeding, moving around gas and dust and stars. This material forms a large flat disk around it, which becomes infertile. It shines so fiercely that it can easily eject stars in the rest of the combined galaxy!
To make the case more intense (again, literally) the magnetic field in the disk is shattered into two vortices, such as the tornado, which pulls matter from the disk and explodes just outside the black hole. If those beams are pointed more or less in our direction then they make the galaxy even more spectacular. This is why the galaxy forms a quasar.
Looking at J0313’s brightness and its distance, astronomers measure its total lightness – how much energy it gives – as 36 Trillion Sun time.
He … bright. it’s almost Three thousand times Much brighter than our own Milky Way. Oops.
So what about supermassive black holes? In the case of J0313, the deep spectra taken by Magellan reveal the mass of the black hole. As the material rotates around the disk, some substances are away from us, so its light is shifted to red, and some towards us, which turns blue. The amount of this smearing of colors can be used to determine the mass of a black hole, and the number they receive is soul-crushing: 1.6 billion times the mass of the Sun.
We know a lot of black holes with that mass, and some even larger ones. But it has taken billions of years to grow to that size. The best one in J0313 is 670 million years old, and is actually somewhat lower. How did it grow to such a large proportion so quickly?
This is an ongoing problem in cosmology. We have seen other quasars at this distance, and they also have quite a few black holes, larger than we think they can get in a short period of time (galactically speaking) they have been around.
The problem is that black holes can only eat material so quickly. The substance moves around them to form those disks, and the disc is so hot that the radiation from it collides with the material falling towards the black hole and flies away. For a black hole with a given mass, the rate at which it can eat is balanced by radiation, which is called Addington border. Eat too fast, and it cuts off your own food supply.
This in turn means that it is very difficult to obtain a black hole with more than one billion solar masses which is fast. Although there are many ideas on how to get around this. Perhaps small black holes are formed (with thousands or thousands of the Sun’s mass) – seed black holes – and they grow rapidly and merge into the nascent galaxy. This can help a lot, although they still have to grow really fast.
It is not quite clear how this process works. We don’t know a lot of quasars at this distance (it’s a big sky, there aren’t many that are far away, and it can be difficult to get them out of a crowded area), but the fact is that we Look at the handful, they all have very large central black holes which means they are growing Somehow. I will note that there may be quasars with low mass black holes and less powerful emission, but they are faded and hard to find. And discovering them only shows that low-mass black holes can be formed, but still leaves the problem of what demons actually do.
The galaxy around the black hole itself is clearly cranking the stars at a rate of a hundredfold of what the Milky Way is doing, which we call it Starburst galaxy. It can be tied to the mass of a black hole; Lots of material to make stars and feed a hungry animal at its core.
It is important to understand all this. For one thing, we know that galaxies and their black holes grow together, so to understand one means to understand the other. But it also tells us what were the circumstances when the Universe was very young and it was still starting. On top of that, the light from these distant objects passes close to our path here, and how they affect that light tells us about an even more distant universe.
Now that we know it is out there, the J0313 will be a major target for many follow-up comments to learn more about it. These quasars pose a major problem, and the more we know about them, the more likely we are to find a solution.