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Five gamma-ray blazars set new distance record

Bright galaxies in early universe suggest rapid growth of supermassive black holes

3:30pm, February 1, 2017
gamma-ray blazars

FAR OUT  Scientists have detected the five farthest gamma-ray blazars known. These bright galaxies, powered by supermassive black holes, were spotted using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Locations of the five blazars are marked on an image of the sky taken in gamma rays.

WASHINGTON — Scientists have spotted a quintet of record-breaking blazars. The five gamma-ray blazars — supremely bright galaxies that host supermassive black holes — are the most distant ever spotted, at more than 11.7 billion light-years away.

As a gamma-ray blazar’s black hole swallows up matter, bright jets shoot out of the galaxy at close to the speed of light. If a jet happens to be pointed at Earth, the galaxy gleams brilliantly in the sky in the high-energy light of gamma rays.

Researchers spotted the far-flung blazars using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, astronomer Roopesh Ojha of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., reported January 30 at a meeting of the American Physical Society. The new blazars had whopper black holes, with the biggest weighing in at 7 billion times the mass of the sun.

The farthest blazar is

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