Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day

Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Astronomers may have discovered the brightest object in the universe: a quasar with a black hole at its heart that is growing so fast that it swallows the equivalent of a sun a day.

The record-breaking quasar shines 500 trillion times brighter than our sun. The black hole powering this distant quasar is more than 17 billion times larger than our sun, an Australian-led team reported Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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Although the quasar appears to be just a speck in images, scientists imagine it to be a wild place.

The rotating disk around the quasar’s black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from engulfed stars — resembles a cosmic hurricane.

“This quasar is the most violent place known in the universe,” lead author Christian Wolf of Australian National University said in an email.

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The European Southern Observatory spotted the object, J0529-4351, during a sky survey in 1980, but it was thought to be a star. Only last year it was identified as a quasar – the extremely active and luminous core of a galaxy. Observations by telescopes in Australia and the Atacama Desert in Chile have confirmed this.

“The exciting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was previously misclassified as a star,” Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.

These later observations and computer models have shown that the quasar swallows the equivalent of 370 suns per year – about one per day. Further analysis shows that the mass of the black hole is 17 to 19 billion times greater than that of our sun, according to the team. More observations are needed to understand its growth rate.

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The quasar is located 12 billion light years away and has existed since the early days of the universe. A light year is 5.8 trillion kilometers.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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