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The Brightest Object Ever Detected

A distant quasar has become the most luminous object ever detected. Scientists say the energy emitted makes the quasar over 500 trillion times more luminous than the Sun.


Artwork: The bright core of J0529-4351 is powered by a supermassive black hole
Artwork: The bright core of J0529-4351 is powered by a supermassive black hole | ESO

The quasar is the bright core of a galaxy that is powered by a gargantuan black hole some 17 billion times the mass of our Sun. Known as J0529-4351, the object's power was recently discovered by detectors at the Very Large Telescope in Chile's Atacama Desert.


Scientists, reporting in the journal Nature Astronomy, say the black hole has a voracious appetite, consuming the mass equivalent to one Sun every day. Even though J0529-4351 was actually recorded in data many years ago, its true magnificence has only just been recognised.


"It is a surprise that it has remained unknown until today, when we already know about a million less impressive quasars. It has literally been staring us in the face until now," said Christopher Onken, one of the astronomers from the Australian National University working on the VLT observations.


The term quasar is used to describe a galaxy with a very active and energetic core. The black hole at the centre of such a galaxy is pulling matter towards itself at a prodigious rate. As this material is accelerated around the hole, it is torn apart and emits a huge amount of light, so much so that even an object as distant as J0529-4351 is still visible to us.


This quasar's emission has taken a whopping 12 billion years to travel through space and finally reach the detectors at the VLT in Chile.

 

Galaxy ZF-UDS-7329
The extremely massive distant galaxy in question | NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI

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