Hubble Telescope discovers ancient quasar with brightness of 600-trillion suns

Hubble Space Telescope’s team works to revive camera amid NASA shutdown

The fantastic luminosity of the distant quasar is equivalent to 600-trillion suns and was found using the Hubble telescope.

"Prior to this, no stars, quasars, or galaxies had been formed, until objects like this appeared like candles in the dark".

Catalogued as J043947.08+163415.7, it is so old the light being received from it started its journey when the universe was only about a billion years old.

"This detection is a surprising and major discovery; for decades we thought that these lensed quasars in the early Universe should be very common, but this is the first of its kind that we have found", said Dr. Fabio Pacucci, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University.

According to a recent NASA announcement, one of Hubble's main instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3, has suffered some sort of hardware failure and is now offline.

"Our theoretical study predicts that we might be missing a substantial fraction of the population of these 'phantom quasars.' If they are indeed numerous, it would revolutionize our idea of what happened right after the Big Bang, and even change our view of how these cosmic monsters grew up in mass", said Pacucci.

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"It's the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright", said Diana Dragomir, a postdoc in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the U.S., who led the discovery.

Lead author Xiaohui Fan, of the University of Arizona, said he did not expect to find many quasars brighter than this in the whole universe.

Despite its brightness Hubble was only able to spot the quasar with the help of strong gravitational lensing caused by a dim galaxy between the quasar and the Earth. While the mass of the newfound quasar's black hole means it's large for the early universe, it's not among the biggest, Fan told Live Science. It's times like this that we're reminded of just how incredible Hubble's mission has been.

The data shows not only that the supermassive black hole is accreting matter to itself at an extremely high rate, but also that the quasar may be producing up to 10,000 stars per year, scientists said.

The composite image includes 54 snapshots of Hubble's vision digitally stitched together, capturing a truly staggering 25 million stars. This gravitational lensing, which occurs thanks to Einstein's theory of general relativity, magnifies the brightness of the distant quasar, thereby making it visible to astronomers. Fabian Walter, from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

Going forward, the highly anticipated (and oft-delayed ) James Webb Space Telescope is expected to take some of the burden off of Hubble, but at this point it's hard to know when that spacecraft will actually make it into orbit.

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