The brightest quasar ever discovered

SDSS J0100 + 2802 is the brightest quasars ever discovered in the early universe, powered by a black hole of 12 billion solar masses, the most massive known so far in so remote ages. The result was achieved by an international team of astronomers led by Chinese Xue-Bing Wu thanks to observations made with the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona.

quasarCredit: INAF

A new quasar, bright as 420 thousand billion suns, was discovered by Xue-Bing Wu, professor of astrophysics at the University of Beijing and the international team of astronomers who he coordinated. At a distance of 12.8 billion light years, this real cosmic monster, called SDSS J0100 + 2802, is the brightest quasar ever discovered in the early universe, powered by a black hole of 12 billion solar masses, the most massive known so far in so remote ages.


Credit: Yunnan Observatory

The discovery, published in the latest issue of the journal Nature, was made by combining data collected by the telescope of 2.4 meters in diameter Lijiang (LJT) in Yunnan (China), the Multiple Mirror Telescope 6.5 meters (MMT) The Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona (USA), the Magellan Telescope Observatory of Las Campanas in Chile and, finally, the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea of 8.2 meters, Hawaii.
The discovery of the quasar SDSS J0100 + 2802 marks an important step forward in understanding how these celestial objects, the most powerful “power plants” of the universe, have evolved in the early stages of development of the cosmos, only 900 million years after the Big Bang. I.e., near the end of a major cosmic event which astronomers are calling “epoch of reionization”: i.e. when the radiation produced by the first stars ionized the neutral hydrogen that permeated the universe, making it again “transparent” to electromagnetic waves.
Since the discovery of the first quasar, in 1963, we now come to identify more than 200,000 of these powerful sources, many located billions of light-years away and about forty to more than 12.7 billion light years. The radiation of the latter was emitted when the universe was less than a billion years.
The discovery of SDSS J0100 + 2802 was obtained thanks to the method developed by Xue-Bing Wu effectively to select high-redshift quasar (then at a great distance) starting from photometric data in the band of visible light and near infrared, in particular those produced from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and satellite Wide-Field Infrared Explorer (WISE) NASA.


Credit: INAF – R. Cerisola

After selection, astronomers have deepened their investigations: the first optical spectrum obtained December 29, 2013 by the telescope LJT, had immediately suspect that SDSS J0100 + 2802 was one of the most distant quasar ever observed. Further observations conducted with the MMT, LBT, the Magellan Telescope and the Gemini Telescope have finally confirmed the extreme characteristics of this source: with a brightness of 420 trillion times the mass of our Sun, this new quasar is 7 times brighter than that today’s more distant ones, whose light has been traveling for 13 billion years. Adding another exceptional property, or host a black hole with a mass of 12 billion solar masses, SDSS J0100 + 2802 becomes the brightest quasars with the most massive black hole among the dawn of the universe.
“This quasar is truly unique,” said Xue-Bing Wu. “Discovering that SDSS J0100 + 2802 has issued the radiation that we studied only 900 million years after the Big Bang has literally galvanized. Just as a lighthouse, the most brilliant of those on the borders of the universe, its intense light will help us to better explore the early universe. “

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