The supermassive black hole makes it 7,000 times brighter than the entire Milky Way, which is growing so fast, hidden from view.
Every second, a quantity of material equivalent to the mass of the Earth falls into this insatiable black hole.
As far as we know, the last 9 billion year old black hole is a growing black hole; its activity is so tremendous that it sends multi-wavelength light across the Universe, becoming what is known as a quasar.
The black hole is called SMSS J114447.77-430859.3 (abbreviated as J1144) and a study of its properties suggests that light from its power has traveled about 7 billion years to reach us, and takes up more than 2.6 billion times. Mass of the sun (relatively respectable size for a supermassive black hole).
And there he was, hanging, hiding unnoticed until now. But because of its location – 18 degrees from the galactic plane – previous polls looking for quasars have failed, closer than 20 degrees from the Milky Way disk.
“A bit of historical bad luck has become our good luck,” said ChristAnken, an astronomer at the Australian National University of ScienceAlert.
“Searching for distant objects can be very difficult when approaching the Milky Way disk; there are many stars in the foreground where it is very difficult to find rare sources in the background.
“Another team used an ultraviolet satellite to look for these bright objects across the sky, but J1144 fell into a small gap in their coverage. But the source is bright enough to appear in 1901 photographs of the sky. So it’s definitely a case of hiding from view.”
In addition to supernova explosions emitting gamma-ray bursts, quasars are the brightest objects in the universe. They are the result of a supermassive black hole that accumulates in a horrible matter, from a huge disk of dust and gas that curls like water from a drain to a black hole.
It is not the black hole itself that shines, this material that is heated by extreme friction and gravity, that creates light across the spectrum.
In addition, astronomers believe that part of the material could be directed and accelerated along the magnetic field lines outside the black hole to the poles, where it could be launched into space as a high-velocity plasma jet. Their interaction with the gas in the surrounding galaxy creates radio waves.
But there is something strange about J1144. Quasars with the same level of activity can be found, but much earlier in the history of the Universe, which is about 13.8 billion years old.
After about 9 billion years ago, this raging quasar activity seems to have calmed down somewhat, turning J1144 into a fascinating gem. The quasar is so bright that someone with a backyard telescope can pull it out and look at it with their own eyes.
“This black hole is so devastating that even though you never have to say it, I don’t think we’ll find another one like it,” says ANU astronomer Christian Wolf.
“We’re pretty sure this record won’t be broken. Basically, we’re left with no sky where objects like this can be hidden.”
But the discovery has sparked new zeal to hunt down and complete a census of bright quasars. The group has already confirmed 80 new quasars, with hundreds more candidates to be considered and confirmed or rejected.
This means that the astronomical community in the relatively new universe is close to the full census of bright quasars.
“None of them are as bright as the J1144, but they will help us paint a more complete picture of how common this phase of rapid growth can be, which will help us understand the physical mechanism behind it,” Onken told ScienceAlert.
“Rare collisions between giant galaxies, or something special about the environment around the black hole, or about the black hole itself, for example, can release much more energy from the matter that accumulates in a rapidly rotating black hole. It hardly rotates.”
In addition, because they are so bright, the light from the quasar can be analyzed to find out more about the fading gas between the galaxies, Onken said.
This may reveal the flow of gas around the Milky Way galaxy itself to better understand the three-dimensional motion in space around us.
Sent to group research Publications of the Australian Astronomical Societyand is available on the arXiv prepress server.