18:55

420 trillion times brighter than the Sun

Astronomers have discovered a black hole 12 billion times more massive than our sun, in the early universe.

The object is at the centre of a young galaxy 12.8 billion light years from earth. The universe is about 13.5 years old so this looking back to quite near the Big Bang.  It cannot be observed directly – no light escapes from the gravitational pull of a black hole – but reveals itself through the intense radiation emitted by the surrounding dust and other material being sucked into the hole.

The visible outcome is a quasar of extreme luminosity. Indeed SDDS J0100+2802, as it is unmemorably called, is by far the brightest object that astronomers have seen so far in the young universe: 420 trillion times brighter than the Sun. That is 420,000,000,000,000 times brighter. 

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