Skip to comments.Brilliant, But Distant: Most Far-Flung Known Quasar Offers Glimpse Into Early Universe
Posted on 07/31/2011 8:36:55 AM PDT by blam
Brilliant, But Distant: Most Far-Flung Known Quasar Offers Glimpse into Early Universe
A gargantuan black hole has been spotted voraciously devouring material just 770 million years after the big bang
By John Matson
June 29, 2011
GLOWING GOBBLER: An artist's conception of a quasar ionizing the hydrogen gas surrounding it.
Image: Gemini Observatory
Peering far across space and time, astronomers have located a luminous beacon aglow when the universe was still in its infancy. That beacon, a bright astrophysical object known as a quasar, shines with the luminosity of 63 trillion suns as gas falling into a supermassive black holes compresses, heats up and radiates brightly. It is farther from Earth than any other known quasarso distant that its light, emitted 13 billion years ago, is only now reaching Earth. Because of its extreme luminosity and record-setting distance, the quasar offers a unique opportunity to study the conditions of the universe as it underwent an important transition early in cosmic history.
By the time the universe was one billion years old, the once-neutral hydrogen gas atoms in between galaxies had been almost completely stripped of their electrons (ionized) by the glow of the first massive stars. But the full timeline of that process, known as re-ionization because it separated protons and electrons, as they had been in the first 380,000 years postbig bang, is somewhat uncertain.
Quasars, with their tremendous intrinsic brightness, should make for excellent markers of the re-ionization process, acting as flashlights to illuminate the intergalactic medium. But quasar hunters working with optical telescopes had only been able to see back as far as 870 million years after the big bang, when the intergalactic medium's transition from neutral to ionized was almost complete.
(The universe is now 13.75 billion years old.) Beyond that point, a quasar's light has been so stretched, or redshifted, by cosmic expansion that it no longer falls in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum but rather in the longer-wavelength infrared.
Daniel Mortlock, an astrophysicist at Imperial College London, and his colleagues used that fact to their advantage. The researchers looked for objects that showed up in a large-area infrared sky survey but not in a visible-light survey covering the same area of sky, essentially isolating the high-redshift objects. They could thus discover a quasar, known as ULAS J1120+0641, at redshift 7.085, corresponding to a time just 770 million years after the big bang.
That places the newfound quasar about 100 million years earlier in cosmic history than the previous record holder, which was at redshift 6.44. Mortlock and his colleagues report their finding in the June 30 issue of Nature.
The ancient quasar was spotted in the Infrared Deep Sky Survey at the U.K. Infrared Telescope, or UKIDSS, an ongoing seven-year project. The light from ULAS J1120+0641 shows a much greater imprint from neutral intergalactic hydrogen than its nearer, lower-redshift counterparts. "What this object tells us is that at least in front of this quasar, along this line of sight, back at that epoch the universe was about 10 percent, and maybe 50 percent, neutral hydrogen," Mortlock says.
With more observations of ULAS J1120+0641, and perhaps the future discovery of more quasars at a comparable distance, astronomers and cosmologists will be better able to uncover the re-ionization history of the universe. "One of the reasons to look at these time-machine objects is to find out what was happening at that time," he says.
To glow so brightly at that early epoch in cosmic history, the newfound quasar would have to be powered by a black hole roughly two billion times as massive as the sun, or 500 times the mass of the black hole at the center of our galaxy. But such heft requires an explanation.
"The quasar itself is a remarkable object in that no one really knows how to form a black hole that massive, two billion solar masses, in what in cosmological terms is a relatively short time," Mortlock says. In other words, the astrophysicists have found the cosmic equivalent of a newborn baby with the stature of a full-grown adult.
"It's essentially the hardest object to make in the early universe that we know about," Mortlock adds. The gargantuan black hole's existence, discovered through exhaustive telescopic observations, now becomes a challenge for theorists to address. "Assuming that the universe makes sense," Mortlock says, "it has to form somehow."
I was awe struck with the size of a trillion explained this way.
Then, a while later, I read this article about this quasar being 63 trillion times brighter than the sun (63 trillion!!).......it is just incomprehensible.
In God's plan, we are so insignificant.
Try doing a few google searches on “Halton Arp”. This stuff has all been debunked, that is, blackholes, the “big bang”, and the entire idea of interpreting redshift as distance and velocity which is the only basis there ever was for believing in an expanding universe. Quasars in particular turn out to be not remotely as distant as a redshift=distance cosmology demands.
“Assuming that the universe makes sense” - oh, it makes sense alright. It’s the scientists who keep messing up.
All kidding aside - cool post, thanks.
Actually, we are very significant. We seem to think that our physical size, in relationship to the universe, makes us somehow unimportant. Even a galaxy becomes a mere speck in relation to an INFINITE universe. So how big must we become to be significant? God's love has no size restrictions.
LOL..not to some who post on this forum...but I don't have to tell you that.
The Dept Of Defense briefed the president this morning.
They told President Obama that 2 Brazilian soldiers were killed in Iraq.
To everyones surprise, all the color drained from Obamas face. Then he collapsed onto his desk, head in his hands, visibly shaken, almost in tears.
Finally, he composed himself and asked, Just how many is a brazilian?
Halton Arp theories hardly “debunk” anything. They’re just different theories.
When his theories become accepted by the greater astrophysics community, other theories can be considered debunked. Even then they’ll still just accepted theories.
In other words, when you watch a play, do you focus your attention on the actors or the set?
The biggest stars in the universe (Video)
14.6 TRILLION DOLLARS in debt doesnt sound so big now................/s
Depends on how bad the play is.........
I think our extreme rarity makes us significant.
For a second, I thought this was another NYT's article defending Obama.
A few anomalies does not equate to debunked. Most quasars fit the model such as the one in this article.
Uhmmm...well...obviously SOMEONE knows how.
Hmmm! The following statement appears to be problematic:
“Try doing a few google searches on Halton Arp. This stuff has all been debunked, that is, blackholes, the big bang, and the entire idea of interpreting redshift as distance and velocity which is the only basis there ever was for believing in an expanding universe. Quasars in particular turn out to be not remotely as distant as a redshift=distance cosmology demands.”
Well here’s an interesting comment about that in the Wikipedia listing about Halton Arp at:
“As more recent experiments have expanded the amount of collected data by orders of magnitude, it has become increasingly simple to test Arp’s postulates directly. A recent study stated that:
“... the publicly available data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and 2dF QSO redshift survey to test the hypothesis that QSOs are ejected from active galaxies with periodic noncosmological redshifts. For two different intrinsic redshift models, [...] and find there is no evidence for a periodicity at the predicted frequency in log(1+z), or at any other frequency.”
Nonetheless, Arp has not wavered from his stand against the Big Bang and still publishes articles stating his contrary view in both popular and scientific literature”
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