An international team of astronomers has discovered the most distant quasar to date. The quasar is known as J0313-1806 and is so far away that it looks like it was when the universe was only 670 million years old. The discovery provides scientists around the world with valuable information about how massive galaxies and the supermassive black holes at their core formed early in the universe.
J0313-1806 is 13 billion light years from Earth and is powered by a supermassive black hole that is more than 1.6 billion times more massive than the Sun and is 1000 times brighter than the entire Milky Way galaxy. . The distance of the quasar has been confirmed with high precision using ALMA in Chile. Quasars form when the incredibly powerful gravity of a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy pulls in surrounding material, creating an orbital disk of superheated material around the black hole.
The process releases large amounts of energy, making the quasar extremely bright. Quasar often outshines the entire galaxy. The central black hole of J0313-1806 is twice as massive as the previous record holder’s black hole. Researcher Feige Wang says this is the first evidence of how a supermassive black hole affects the galaxy around it.
Wang says that scientists knew this had to happen from observations of less distant galaxies, but it had never been observed to happen so early in the universe. The mass of the black hole at the center of J0313-1806 so early in the history of the universe rules out two theoretical models of how objects form.
In the first of these models, massive individual stars explode into supernovae that collapse into black holes that cluster into larger black holes. The second model theorized that dense star clusters collapse into a huge black hole. However, both theories use time-consuming processes to produce a black hole as massive as J0313-1806 at the age we see it from Earth.