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Chinese astronomers spot brightest, biggest black hole

Updated: Feb 26,2015 5:35 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — A research team led by Chinese astronomers has discovered the most luminous supermassive quasar, a shining object produced by the black hole, ever found in the distant universe.

According to a new study published in the British journal “Nature” on Feb 26, the quasar is 12 billion times the masses of the Sun and 430 trillion times brighter than the Sun.

The black hole, which is 12.8 billion light years from Earth, was first spotted through a 2.4 meter telescope in Lijiang in southwest China’s Yunnan province and its existence was confirmed by follow-up studies in the United States and Chile.

“We were so excited when we found such a luminous object just 9 million years after the Big Bang,” said lead author Wu Xuebing of Peking University in Beijing, adding that it will challenge theories on how black holes form and grow.

“It’s like a child growing to weigh several hundred kilograms in less than ten years. How can we explain it?” Wu explained to Xinhua.

Fan Xiaohui, professor from the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory and a member of Wu’s team, said the discovery “presented a major puzzle” to the theories of black hole growth in the early universe.

The researchers believe that this will provide a unique laboratory to study the mass assembly and galaxy formation around massive black holes in the early universe.

“Spotting such a celestial body usually requires a 10 meter telescope. But Chinese astronomers observed it through a 2 meter telescope. It demonstrates their creativity,” said astrophysicist Chen Jiansheng with the National Astronomical Observatories at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Thanks to certain key technologies Wu and his team have developed in recent years, they were able to select several hundred quasar candidates from over a million celestial bodies.

“It’s like finding a speck of gold dust on a beach. We are lucky to have spotted the quasar and made follow-up observations,” Wu said.

Quasars are believed to be the brightest and most energetic objects in the universe. Since the first quasar was identified in 1963, over 200 thousand quasars have been found.

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