Monster Black Hole Has Mass of 12 Billion Suns

Posted on February 25, 2015

A monster black hole in the distant universe

Astronomers have discovered a quasar and supermassive black hole that formed in the early history of the universe. The black hole has the mass of 12 billion times the sun. The quasar has the luminosity of 420 trillion suns. It is the most luminous quasar with the most massive black hole among all the known high redshift quasars.

The quasar was first discovered by the 2.4-meter Lijiang Telescope in Yunnan, China. The distance and mass of the black hole were then determined by two telescopes from southern Arizona - the 8.4-meter Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham and the 6.5-meter Multiple Mirror Telescope on Mount Hopkins. The quasar has been named SDSS J0100+2802. It formed 13.7 billion years ago, just 900 million years after the Big Bang. The quasar was located 12.8 billion light-years from Earth.

The quasar and black hole were discovered by astronomers from an international team of astronomers from Peking University in China and from the University of Arizona. The astronomers say the finding raises questions about how black holes form.

Xiaohui Fan, Regents' Professor of Astronomy at the UA's Steward Observatory and co-author of the study, "How can a quasar so luminous, and a black hole so massive, form so early in the history of the universe, at an era soon after the earliest stars and galaxies have just emerged? And what is the relationship between this monster black hole and its surrounding environment, including its host galaxy? This ultraluminous quasar with its supermassive black hole provides a unique laboratory to the study of the mass assembly and galaxy formation around the most massive black holes in the early universe."

A research paper on the distant quasar and black hole was published here in the journal, Nature.

Image: Zhaoyu Li/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Misti Mountain Observatory