11 billion years old largest ever black hole observed through infrared surveys; Research

The reddish object in this infrared image is ULASJ1234+0907 (Credit: image created using data from UKIDSS and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observator)Scientists from the University of Cambridge have observed the supermassive black hole dubbed ULASJ1234+0907 that is located in the direction of the constellation of Virgo.

This research is going to be published online in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Scientists used infrared surveys using UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) to search through the dust and locate the giant black holes for the first time in the early Universe and among these black holes are ULASJ1234+0907.

This is not only the supermassive black hole as it is 10 billion times the mass of the Sun but also one of the objects that came into being early in the Universe as it is 11 billion years old. According to astronomers, it is one of the most massive black holes ever seen in the history. Not only is this but they are also estimating that there are as many as 400 such giant black holes that can be observed.

“These results could have a significant impact on studies of supermassive black holes” said Dr Manda Banerji, lead author of the paper. “Most black holes of this kind are seen through the matter they drag in. As the neighbouring material spirals in towards the black holes, it heats up. Astronomers are able to see this radiation and observe these systems.”

“Although these black holes have been studied for some time, the new results indicate that some of the most massive ones may have so far been hidden from our view.”

Prof. Richard McMahon, co-author of the study, who is also leading the largest infrared survey of the sky, said: “These results are particularly exciting because they show that our new infrared surveys are finding super massive black holes that are invisible in optical surveys. These new quasars are important because we may be catching them as they are being fed through collisions with other galaxies. Observations with the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile will allow us to directly test this picture by detecting the microwave frequency radiation emitted by the vast amounts of gas in the colliding galaxies.”

After comparing the extreme case of ULASJ1234+0907 with the relatively nearby and well-studied Markarian 231, which is located just 600 million light-years away, scientists found that the early Universe was more unstable and hostile to such objects than it is today.


Manda Banerji (IoA, Cambridge), Richard G. McMahon, Paul C. Hewett, Susannah Alaghband-Zadeh, Eduardo Gonzalez-Solares, Bram P. Venemans, (2012). Heavily Reddened Quasars at z~2 in the UKIDSS Large Area Survey: A Transitional Phase in AGN Evolution. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. A preprint of the paper can be seen on ArXiV at http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.5530


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