Astronomers discover 83 supermassive black holes 13 billion light-years from Earth

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Artist's impression of a lonely quasar in the early universe, 13.05 billion light-years away from Earth. Image: NAOJ
Image:

Artist's impression of a lonely quasar in the early universe, 13.05 billion light-years away from Earth. Image: NAOJ

Supermassive black holes came into existence when the Universe was just five per cent of its current age

Astronomers from Taiwan, Japan, and Princeton University claim to have discovered 83 previously known quasars, which are powered by supermassive black holes and are located around 13 billion light-years away from us.

According to the research team, these supermassive black holes came into existence when the Universe was just five per cent of its current age. The age of the Universe is estimated at around 13.8 billion years old.

A black hole is an area in space where a massive amount of matter is packed into a very small area. Scientists believe black holes are formed when large stars collapse at the end of their life cycle. After a black hole is formed, it can continue to grow by consuming mass from its surroundings. Supermassive black holes are found at the centres of galaxies and are millions of times bigger than the Sun.

Quasars are massive objects in the Universe that emit exceptionally large amounts of energy. Quasars are thought to contain massive black holes.

In the current study, astronomers used three different telescopes to search for quasars in the distant Universe. Specifically, they used data collected by Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) instrument installed on the Subaru Telescope in Japan. Subaru is considered one of the largest and most powerful telescopes in the world.

The data collected through HSC helped astronomers to select distant quasar candidates for further investigation. Then, the team obtained the spectra of the quasars using three different telescopes: the Subaru Telescope, the Gran Telescope in Spain and the Gemini South Telescope in Chile.

The detailed survey enabled the team to discover 83 quasars, which were previously unknown to the scientists. Earlier, 17 quasars were discovered by astronomers in the same survey region.

The most distant quasar that astronomers discovered in the new survey is located 13.05 billion light-years away.

The light emitted by an object 13 billion light-years away, of course, takes 13 billion years to reach at Earth. Thus, it provides an idea of how objects looked 13 billion years ago, when the Universe was just five per cent of its current age.

After a detailed analysis of the survey data, astronomers concluded that there is about one supermassive black hole present in every per cubic giga-light-year region in the Universe.

The research team now wants to expand the scope of their study to spot more distant black holes in the Universe in an effort to find out when the first supermassive black hole was formed in the Universe.

The detailed findings of the research are available in five papers published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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