Universe’s Largest Black Hole May Have An Explanation At Last
“The brightest, most luminous objects in the entire Universe are neither stars nor galaxies, but quasars, like S5 0014+81. The sixth brightest quasar known so far, its mass was determined in a 2009 study: 40 billion Suns. Its physical size would have a radius that’s 800 times the Earth-Sun distance, or over 100 billion kilometers. This makes it the most massive black hole known in the entire Universe, as massive as the Triangulum galaxy, our local group’s third largest member.”
The largest black hole in the Universe was a shocker when it was first discovered. At 40 billion solar masses, it certainly is impressively large. Like other quasars and active galaxies, it has a luminous accretion disk that can be seen from a great distance. Like only a few, one of its two incredibly energetic, polar jets is pointed directly at Earth, creating a blazar, the brightest of all active galaxies. But what makes this object, known as S5 0014+81, so special is that it got so big and massive so quickly. Its light comes to us from a time when the Universe was only 1.6 billion years old: just 12% of its current age. If this brilliant, massive object were located a mere 280 light years away, or ‘only’ 18 million times the Earth-Sun distance, it would shine as brightly as our life-giving star.
Big Bang Confirmed Again, This Time By The Universe’s First Atoms
“If anything could throw the Big Bang into crisis, it would be if a truly pristine sample of gas disagreed with the predictions of how the elements should turn out. But everything lines up so incredibly well, between the theory of what we should observe just three-to-four minutes after the Big Bang and the observations we make billions of years later, that it can only be considered a remarkable confirmation of the most successful theory of the Universe ever. From the smallest, subatomic particles to the largest cosmic scales and structures, the Big Bang explains an enormous suite of phenomena that no other alternative can touch.”
When it was first conceived, the idea of the Big Bang was spectacular for the fact that it made three incredibly distinct predictions, ranging from the largest scales down to the smallest. As we looked from million to billions of light years away, we should find that the Universe expands at a rate that changes depending on what’s in it; there should be a leftover, uniform glow in all directions; and the first atoms, before stars formed, should exist in a very particular abundance. These ratios were notoriously difficult to observe, because it required a serendipitous alignment of an ultra-distant light source behind a pristine cloud of gas that never formed stars. And yet, here in the 21st century, we’ve actually found multiple systems that have those exact properties! One can calculate the expected abundances from Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and the measurements are finally getting good enough to compare the results with the predictions. The agreement is beyond spectacular!
Sorry I’ve been absent so long but I’m on uni break again and super bored so get ready for heaps of new images!
Anyway, I’m just going to tell you guys about something cool I did during the semester. As one of my units I had the opportunity to do a research project in astronomy. I collected data from various telescopes and used it to put together several spectra for active galactic nuclei (these are galaxies that emit huge amounts of energy from the region around their central black holes). Even though it wasn’t too challenging a project, combined with my regular coursework it was the hardest semester I’ve done so far. Being able to present a final product and report was so rewarding though and it was my highest grade for the semester, which will hopefully work in my favour when applying for honours (I’m not the best student so I need everything I can get!) If anyone here is considering doing something similar I’d highly recommend, it is so different from regular coursework and is definitely worth giving it a shot.