Newly Discovered 'Quasar' is Brightest Object in Universe

Feb 23, 2024

Scientists recently discovered a quasar that gobbles up the equivalent of one sun a day. They're calling the light given off by the massive superstructure the brightest ever seen by humans.  

Quasars are giant black holes at the center of galaxies. They emit massive amounts of light. They're fueled by surrounding dust and gas. Both heat up as matter gets pulled into a quasar's center. Not all galaxies have them. Our Milky Way doesn't. If it did, the intense heat and radiation it emits might make it far less optimal for life.  

This one is located 12 billion light years away. It has a black hole 17 billion times larger than our sun. It's 500 trillion times brighter, too. The Australian scientists who unearthed it say it’s been hiding in plain view for decades. When the object, named J0529-4351, was first found in 1980, astronomers thought it was a star.  

The Australians identified it as a quasar last year using a 7.5 foot telescope in New South Wales. They later confirmed the finding with the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Their findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy

The lead study author is Christian Wolf. The Australian National University astrophysicist described the quasar as “a hellish place” in The Guardian. Wolf told The Associated Press: “This quasar is the most violent place that we know in the universe.” 

What makes it so violent? The intense hurricane-like swirling of matter in an area around the black hole that’s called the “accretion disk,” where temperatures reach 10,000 degrees Celsius. 

Wolf told The Guardian the finding filled him with “cheeky joy. We found it! Nature does not make it easy, it’s like ‘ah, there you are!’”  

Reflect: How are scientists able to provide specific details about phenomena that are observed billions of light years away from Earth? 

Image courtesy J. da Silva on Wikimedia Commons.

Based on the way it’s used in paragraph two of the article, the best definition for the word “emit” is: (Common Core RI.5.4; RI.6.4)
a. to give off
b. to give voice to
c. to issue with authority
d. to shelter
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