Astronomers have very recently found the most distant quasar with strong jets transmitting at radio wavelengths using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT). The discovery of this ‘radio-loud’ quasar, which was recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, may provide key evidence and clues to help astronomers understand better the origins of the universe.
Quasars are extremely bright objects that are powered by supermassive black holes and can be found at the centre of certain galaxies.
Energy is released as the black hole absorbs the surrounding gas, making astronomers to see it even when it is very far away.
The recently found quasar, dubbed P172+18, is so far away that its light has travelled 13 billion years to reach us. We see it as it was when the universe was just 780 million years old.
What Astronomers Think:
Despite the fact that more distant quasars have been detected, it’s the first time astronomers have been able to detect the telltale signatures of radio jets in a quasar so early in the universe’s history.
Only about 10% of quasars, which are classified as “radio-loud” by astronomers, have jets that shine brilliantly at radio frequencies.
P172+18, a newly discovered quasar, is powered by a gas-consuming black hole 300 million times more gigantic than our Sun at a stunning rate.
“The black hole is eating up matter very rapidly, growing in mass at one of the highest rates ever observed,” said astronomer Chiara Mazzucchelli. He is based at the European Southern Observatory in Chile and co-led the discovery with Eduardo Banados of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.
Astronomers believe there is a link connecting supermassive black hole rapid growth and the strong radio jets seen in quasars like P172+18.
The jets are believed to be able to disrupt the gas surrounding the black hole, causing it to fall in faster.
As a result, researching radio-loud quasars may reveal key details about how early universe black holes expanded to supermassive sizes so rapidly after the Big Bang.
“I find it very exciting to discover ‘new’ black holes for the first time, and to provide one more building block to understand the primordial Universe, where we come from, and ultimately ourselves,” said Mazzucchelli.