The quasars from supermassive black holes in the early Universe

An image to show supermassive black holes
Infrared echoes of a star being devoured by a supermassive black hole. ©NASA/JPL-Caltech

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan has announced the discovery of 83 quasars powered by supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in the early Universe.

The new research increases the number of supermassive black holes in the early Universe considerably. It also reveals for the first time how common supermassive black holes were in that epoch.

Supermassive black holes

Supermassive black holes are found at the centre of galaxies. The masses of supermassive black holes are millions or billions of times that of the Sun.

It is unclear when they first formed, and how many existed in the early Universe.

Although they cannot be observed directly, the large qunatity of matter that falls into a supermassive black hole releases quasars, energy that shows as a bright light which can be viewed across the universe.

The 83 quasars

The Subaru Telescope was used by a research team to search for quasars in the distant Universe. The most distant quasar they found was 13.05 billion light-years away.

The light provides an image of how the light was emitted from supermassive black holes 13 billion years ago. At this time, the Universe was just 5 percent of its current age.

The 83 previously unknown quasars have now been added to the list of 17 quasars which are already known in the survey region. Previously, the studies have been sensitive only to the most luminous quasars, meaning that they have only been able to find the most massive black holes.

The research also found that the average spacing between supermassive black holes is one billion lightyears.

The significance of the new quasars discovery

The leader of the research team, Yoshiki Matsuoka of Ehime University, Matsuyama, Japan, explained: “The quasars we discovered will be an interesting subject for further follow-up observations with current and future facilities. We will also learn about the formation and early evolution of SMBHs, by comparing the measured number density and luminosity distribution with predictions from theoretical models.”

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