Black hole is most distant discovered

Astronomers have discovered the most distant black hole ever found, nearly 13 billion light years away from the Earth. The cosmic cannibal is nearly as old as the universe.

The distant quasar containing the black holeIt cannot be seen directly because light cannot escape from within. However, scientists spotted the brilliant glow from swirling hot gas and debris being sucked in like water down a plughole.

The black hole is inside a highly luminous type of galaxy called a quasar in the constellation of Pisces. The discovery, revealed at a conference in Kingston, Canada, today, was made by an international team of astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope on Hawaii.

An imaging instrument called MegaCam took snapshots of more than ten million stars and galaxies which the scientists have been sifting through. Astronomers have named the quasar CFHQS J2329-0301. Its immense distance was revealed by its redshift – the amount by which the fingerprints of elements are shifted towrds the red end of the spectrum.

Measurement of one such emission line in the quasar’s spectrum showed that it has a redshift of 6.43. Dr Chris Willott, of the University of Ottawa, said: “As soon as I saw the spectrum with its booming emission line, I knew this one was a long way away”.

The black hole powering the quasar is believed to be 500 million times more massive than the Sun. The image of it here, using three filters, shows how red the quasar is compared to stars and galaxies in the field.

In March we told how space telescopes had combined to take a snapshot of the sky revealing the presence of 1,000 massive black holes.

Photo: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation 2006.

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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