London: Scientists have discovered what
they say is the most distant and earliest quasar yet which is
believed to be
powered by a black hole.
The object, named ULAS J1120+0641, is the most distant
quasar known and the findings may shed light on a hidden era
of the early universe, the researchers said.
Quasars are incredibly bright sources of energy thought
to be the hot centres of young galaxies swirling around
supermassive black holes. They can emit thousands of times
more radiation than our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
According to the scientists, the new quasar is 12.9
billion light years away, meaning its light began travelling
across space when the universe was just 770 million years old,
the Daily Mail reported.
Light rays from such distant objects are stretched by
the expanding cosmos, making them redder. Astronomers use this
`redshift` to estimate the distance of very far away objects.
ULAS J1120+0641, identified by the United Kingdom
Infrared Telescope based at Hilo in Hawaii, is the first
quasar discovered in the infrared part of the spectrum.
The next most distant quasar appeared 870 million
years after the Big Bang which gave birth to the universe.
Studying ULAS J1120+0641 may help astronomers learn
more about the reionisation era, a little-understood period
when the first stars and galaxies were forming, said Dr Bram
Venemans, of the European Southern Observatory in Germany, who
was part of the team made the discovery.
"By peering deep into the reionisation era, this
quasar provides a unique opportunity to explore a 100
million-year window in the history of the cosmos that was
previously out of reach," said Dr Venemans.
Co-researcher Dr Daniel Mortlock from Imperial College
London said: "Finding this object required a painstaking
search, but it was worth the effort to be able to unravel some
of the mysteries of the early universe."
The discovery was published in the journal Nature.