Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Gemini: Supermassive Black Hole Is Ahead of Its Time
by Staff Writers
Hilo HI (SPX) Dec 06, 2017

Artist's impression of a quasar: a supermassive black hole, surrounded by an accretion disk of material. Astronomers have found the most distant quasar yet known, and used it to obtain key information about the early universe.

The discovery of an extremely distant supermassive black hole, with a mass some 800 million times that of our Sun, is causing astronomers to re-think our understanding of the early cosmos. Researchers report that this is the most distant giant black hole ever detected, and at this distance, our universe was only about 5% of its current age, or about 690 million years after the Big Bang.

"Gathering all this mass in under 690 million years is an enormous challenge for theories of supermassive black hole growth," explains Eduardo Banados, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science who led the international team of scientists.

The unexpected discovery is based on data amassed from observatories around the world. This includes key spectroscopic data from the Gemini Observatory that helped to determine the black hole's enormous mass. The newly found black hole is voraciously devouring material at the center of a galaxy and releasing copious amounts of energy in what is called a quasar, short for quasi-stellar object.

According to Banados, Gemini's capabilities on Hawaii's Maunakea made it uniquely qualified for these observations. The air over Maunakea is exceptionally dry and still, which allows more of the infrared light to pass through and be captured by the large 8-meter Gemini mirror.

Banados adds that the Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS) went beyond what other instruments on other sites can do. "We dove deep into the infrared light spectrum at Gemini and probed the magnesium lines," said Banados. Magnesium lines are critical for determining a black hole's mass, but for objects at this distance, the redshifting of the light makes them extremely difficult to capture from the surface of our planet due to absorption by atmospheric water vapor.

The initial discovery of this quasar (given the identity J1342+0928) came to light thanks to the mining of three large area surveys: the DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS) that is being carried out with the Dark Energy Camera on the National Science Foundation's Blanco 4-m telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) Large Area Survey.

"DECaLS was designed from the ground up as a public project, so it is wonderful to see the data enabling exciting discoveries that are pushing the boundaries of the known universe," said Arjun Dey of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), one of the co-leads of the DECaLS survey.

"These observations further demonstrate Gemini's ability to probe the most distant objects in the universe under the most challenging conditions," notes Chris Davis, Program Officer at NSF which is one of five international agencies that own and operate Gemini.

"Quasars are among the brightest and most-distant known celestial objects and are crucial to understanding the early universe," added Bram Venemans of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany. This result is an outcome of a long term effort that Banados joined as a Ph. D. student at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Fabian Walter's group.

Prior to this discovery, the record-holder for the furthest known quasar existed when the universe was about 800 million years old. "Despite extensive searches, it took more than half a decade to catch a glimpse of something this far back in the history of the universe," Banados explained.

The discovery of a massive black hole so early in the universe may provide key clues on conditions in the very early universe, which allowed for black holes on the order of hundreds of thousands of solar masses to form. This is unlike black holes that form in the local universe, which rarely exceed an initial mass of dozens of solar masses.

J1342+0928 existed during the epoch of reionization. This is a period when the early universe emerged from its dark ages - the universe emitted no light before gravity condensed matter into the first stars and galaxies.

An estimated 20 to 100 quasars as bright and distant as the quasar discovered by Banados and his team are predicted to exist over the whole sky. The team plans to continue searching for similar quasars using Gemini and other large telescopes around the world.

"This finding shows that a process obviously existed in the early universe to make this monster," Banados adds. "What that process is? Well, that will keep theorists very busy!"

These results, including the quasar's discovery, are announced in the December 6th issue of the journal Nature.

ALMA discovers infant stars surprisingly near galaxy's supermassive black hole
Charlottesville VA (SPX) Dec 04, 2017
At the center of our galaxy, in the immediate vicinity of its supermassive black hole, is a region wracked by powerful tidal forces and bathed in intense ultraviolet light and X-ray radiation. These harsh conditions, astronomers surmise, do not favor star formation, especially low-mass stars like our sun. Surprisingly, new observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) ... read more

Related Links
Gemini Observatory
Understanding Time and Space

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Aerospace and Mitchell Institute release new report on policy needs for space operations

The Voyagers in Popular Culture

NASA successfully fires Voyager 1 thrusters after 37 years

NASA Extends Expandable Habitat's Time on the International Space Station

ISRO eyes one rocket launch a month in 2018

Russia to build launch pad for super heavy-lift carrier by 2028

Flat-Earther's self-launch plan hits a snag

Mechanisms are critical to all space vehicles

EU exempts fuel for ExoMars mission from Russian sanctions

Winter wanderings put Opportunity at 28 Miles on the odometer

Opportunity Greets Winter Solstice

NASA builds its next Mars rover mission

Nation 'leads world' in remote sensing technology

China plans for nuclear-powered interplanetary capacity by 2040

China plans first sea based launch by 2018

China's reusable spacecraft to be launched in 2020

Regulation and compliance for nontraditional space missions

Orbital ATK purchase by Northrop Grumman approved by shareholders

UK space launch program receives funding boost from Westminster

Going green to the Red Planet

Seaweed could hold key to environmentally friendly sunscreen

Borophene shines alone as 2-D plasmonic material

New microscope sets a record for visualizing surface wetting properties

First step toward practical application of holographic memory with magnetic assist

First Light for Next Generation Planet Hunter ESPRESSO

An Orbital Dance May Help Preserve Oceans on Icy Worlds

The answer to planetary habitability is blowing in the stellar wind

Scallops have 200 eyes, which function like a telescope: study

Jupiter Blues

Research bolsters possibility of plate tectonics on Europa

Pluto's hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet colder than expected

Jupiter's Stunning Southern Hemisphere

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement