The most luminous object in the universe

It was captured by observations from the Very Large Telescope (VLT). It is the brightest quasar of its kind. And also the most luminous object in the universe.

Quasars are the bright nuclei of distant galaxies and get their energy from supermassive black holes. The black hole of this quasar increases its mass by the equivalent of one Sun per day. It is the fastest growing black hole discovered to date. This is reported in a statement by the ESO (European Southern Observatory), which operates the telescope.

The most luminous object in the universe, a quasar, was discovered.
The most luminous object in the universe, a quasar, was discovered.

500 billion suns

The black holes that feed quasars collect matter from their surroundings. It is such an energetic process that it emits large amounts of light. That's why quasars are some of the brightest objects in our sky. They indicate the presence of the fastest growing supermassive black holes.

“It is the most luminous object in the known universe,” says Christian Wolf. He is an astronomer at the Australian National University (ANU) and lead author of the study. It was published in the journal Nature Astronomy. It took more than 12 billion years for the light from the quasar to reach us.

It is 500 billion times more luminous than the Sun. «All this light comes from a hot accretion disk that measures seven light years in diameter. “It must be the largest accretion disk in the universe.” Seven light years is approximately 15,000 times the distance from the Sun to Neptune's orbit.

Quasars appear around black marlins.
Quasars appear around black marlins.

deceptive light

An automated analysis of data from the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite missed this object. It was thought to be too bright to be a quasar, suggesting it was a star. Researchers identified it as a distant quasar last year. They used observations from the ANU 2.3-meter telescope. It is located at the Siding Spring Observatory, in Australia.

However, discovering that it was the most luminous quasar ever observed required a larger telescope and measurements from a more precise instrument. The X-shooter spectrograph, installed on ESO's VLT in Chile's Atacama Desert, provided the data that would prove crucial.

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