Astronomers just found the oldest supermassive black hole to date

James Marshall
January 14, 2021

Tom Soifer. Commissioned in 2018, NIRES covers a large wavelength range at moderate spectral resolution for use on the Keck II telescope and observes extremely faint red objects found with the Spitzer and WISE infrared space telescopes, as well as brown dwarfs, high-redshift galaxies, and quasars.

Experts from the University of Arizona say the quasar - which is a form of energetic supermassive black hole - formed when the universe was just 670 million years old.

The quasar is 1,000 times brighter than our entire Milky Way galaxy, and it is powered by the supermassive black hole, which weighs more than 1.6 billion times the mass of our sun.

A team of astronomers has recently discovered the most distant quasar ever.

At an AAS press conference today, January 12, 2021, an global team of astronomers announced the discovery of J0313-1806, the most distant quasar known to date with a redshift of z = 7.64.

But how can black holes be so luminous - aren't they supposed to suck up everything in their vicinity, even light?

'This is evidence about how these earliest massive galaxies and their quasars grow'.

J0313-1806 is seen more than 13 billion years ago.

The most distant quasar known has been discovered.

J0313-1806, for example, sparkles 1,000 times more splendid than the whole Milky Way galaxy.

Previous explanations have suggested that massive stars form early on using mostly hydrogen, and lack the other elements that are used in later stars, allowing them to form quickly and then provide fuel for a black hole. Said Barth: "It's astounding that quasars were able to grow to such large masses so rapidly, and J0313-1806 takes us one step closer to witnessing the earliest history of the largest black holes in the universe".

Astronomers had the option to detect the quasar utilizing a handful of ground-based observatories, including the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the world's biggest radio telescope, and two observatories on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

All galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their cores. "From observations of less distant galaxies, we know that this has to happen, but we have never seen it happening so early in the universe". "The researchers combined several of NSF's NOIRLab facilities to make this discovery".

The newly discovered quasar and black hole are 13 billion light-years from Earth.

"This is the earliest evidence of how a supermassive black hole is affecting its host galaxy around it", said Feige Wang, the study's lead author and a Hubble Fellow at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory.

The monster black hole at J0313-1806 is still growing at a rapid pace, gobbling up the equivalent of 25 suns every day.

This research was presented in the paper "A Luminous Quasar at Redshift 7.642" at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

The study, which includes data from several Maunakea Observatories in Hawaii - UKIRT, W. M. Keck Observatory, and the global Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF's NOIRLab - as well as Pan-STARRS1, a survey telescope on Maui operated by the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, has been accepted in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available in pre-print format on

The research team also includes astronomer Richard Green and doctoral student Minghao Yue, both at Steward Observatory.

NSF's NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory), the United States center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the worldwide Gemini Observatory (a facility of NSF, NRC-Canada, ANID-Chile, MCTIC-Brazil, MINCyT-Argentina, and KASI-Republic of Korea), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and Vera C. Rubin Observatory. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du'ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawai'i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile.

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