An artist’s impression of the record-breaking quasar J0529-4351

ESO/M Grain Fairs

A quasar, 500 trillion times brighter than the Sun, holds the title of the brightest known object in the universe. It appears to be powered by a supermassive black hole that’s consuming a sun-sized amount every day.

Quasars are galactic cores where gas and dust collapse into a supermassive black hole, releasing energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation. Christian Wolff At the Australian National University in Canberra and colleagues first observed the new brightest quasar named J0529-4351 in 2022. Gaia Space Telescope And looking for extremely bright objects outside the Milky Way that were misidentified as stars.

Following up with further observations from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, they now know it is the brightest object in the universe we know of.

Wolff and his colleagues used an instrument on the VLT called a spectrometer to analyze the light coming from J0529-4351 and estimate how much of the black hole’s gas and matter is produced by the rotating disk. Hoi, called its accretion disk. This revealed that J0529-4351 is the fastest growing black hole in the Universe, falling in at about 413 solar masses per year, or more than the Sun per day.

Using these light spectra, the researchers also calculated that the mass of the black hole was between 5 billion and 50 billion solar masses.

Wolff and his colleagues also found the previous brightest quasar in 2018, which was about half the luminosity of J0529-4351. Wolf believes the new discovery will remain the record holder for some time, as the majority of the observable sky has now been surveyed in great detail, thanks to the extensive star catalog produced by Gaia. “This is the largest unicorn with the longest horn on its head that we’ve found. I don’t think we’re going to top that record,” says Wolf.

The quasar’s accretion disk appears to be at its widest, at 7 light-years. This presents a rare opportunity to directly image a black hole and accurately measure its mass. Christine is done. at Durham University, UK. “It’s big and bright enough that we can handle it with our current equipment,” says Don. “So we could have a much more direct measure of the mass of the black hole in this monster, and that’s what I was pretty excited about.”

The VLT is currently upgrading its spectroscopic instruments as part of the Gravity+ project and should then be able to resolve the properties of J0529-4351 in detail. That would mean different parts of the quasar’s accretion disk could be distinguished and better understood, Donn says, though that could take a few years.