Scientists Discover Black Hole Inside Quasar That ‘Eats Just Over A Sun Per Day’

GENERIC BLACK HOLE AND GALAXY -- Shutterstock/Blackholee

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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The European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) revealed Monday the discovery in a distant galaxy of the brightest quasar ever observed containing a “record-breaking,” “supermassive” black hole.

“Quasars are the bright cores of distant galaxies and they are powered by supermassive black holes,” ESO described in the announcement. The black hole in this specific quasar, called J0529-4351, is “growing in mass” at the rate “of one Sun a day.” This means it is the fastest-growing black hole ever discovered by astronomers (to-date).

Black holes are believed to power quasars by collecting matter within their surroundings in a significantly energetic process that throws off a huge amount of light, the announcement read. The faster the black hole is growing, the brighter the quasar, and some are even visible from Earth — though not if you live in or around a town or city.

“We have discovered the fastest-growing black hole known to date. It has a mass of 17 billion Suns, and eats just over a Sun per day. This makes it the most luminous object in the known Universe,” Australian National University (ANU) astronomer Christian Wolf, lead author of the study focused on the quasar discovery, said in the announcement.

Even though this particular quasar and black hole are seriously record-breaking, the light they generate is thought to have taken more than 12 billion years to reach Earth, the announcement stated. And the light is more than 500 trillion times more luminous than our Sun.

“It is a surprise that it has remained unknown until today, when we already know about a million less impressive quasars. It has literally been staring us in the face until now,” co-author Christopher Onken said in the announcement. (RELATED: ‘Universe Breakers’: The James Webb Telescope Is Seeing Things That Shouldn’t Exist)

Scientists have to use extremely precise observational data to identify and track quasars. Right now there are programs which help in this process, but they are inherently flawed and based on historical data. But Wolf said in the announcement that half the fun of his work is the “chase” to find another quasar. “For a few minutes a day, I get to feel like a child again, playing treasure hunt, and now I bring everything to the table that I have learned since,” he related, and isn’t that just adorably brilliant?