Science Ticker | Science News

ADVERTISEMENT

MISSION CRITICAL

Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.

Science Ticker

Your daily roundup of research news

Science News Staff

Science Ticker


Science Ticker

The most distant quasar ever spotted hails from the universe’s infancy

supermassive black hole

GRAVITATIONAL GUZZLER  The black hole powering the quasar J1342+0928 (illustrated) weighs as much as 800 million suns, but it existed when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age. Scientists aren’t sure how black holes grew so big so early. 

Sponsor Message

The most distant quasar yet spotted sends its light from the universe’s toddler years. The quasar, called J1342+0928, existed when the universe was only 690 million years old, right when the first stars and galaxies were forming.

Quasars are bright disks of gas and dust swirling around supermassive black holes. The black hole that powers J1342+0928 has a mass equivalent to 800 million suns, and it’s gobbling gas and dust so fast that its disk glows as bright as 400 trillion suns, Eduardo Bañados of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, Calif., and his colleagues report December 6 in Nature.

“The newly discovered quasar gives us a unique photo of the universe when it was 5 percent [of] its present age,” Bañados says. “If the universe was a 50-year-old person, we would be seeing a photo of that person when she/he was 2 1/2 years old.” 

This quasar is only slightly smaller than the previous distance record-holder, which weighs as much as 2 billion suns and whose light is 12.9 billion years old, emitted when the universe was just 770 million years old (SN: 7/30/11, p. 12). Scientists still aren’t sure how supermassive black holes like these grew so big so early.

“They either have to grow faster than we thought, or they started as a bigger baby,” says study coauthor Xiaohui Fan of the Steward Observatory in Tucson.

The temperature of the gas surrounding the newfound quasar places it squarely in the epoch of reionization (SN: 4/1/17, p. 13), when the first stars stripped electrons from atoms of gas that filled interstellar space. That switched the universe’s gas from mostly cold and neutral to hot and ionized. When this particular black hole formed, the universe was about half hot and half cold, Fan says.

“We’re very close to the epoch when the first-generation galaxies are appearing,” Fan says.

Animals,, Paleontology

Here’s yet more evidence that the mythical yeti was probably a bear

By Laurel Hamers 7:06pm, November 28, 2017
A more complete genetic analysis amps up the evidence that the legendary creatures known as yetis are actually bears.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

Here is Cassini’s last broad look at the Saturn system

By Lisa Grossman 6:00am, November 22, 2017
Two days before plunging into Saturn, Cassini took a mosaic image of the gas giant, its rings and its moons.
Astronomy

The Arecibo Observatory will remain open, NSF says

By Lisa Grossman 3:15pm, November 17, 2017
The iconic Arecibo radio telescope has survived Hurricane Maria and dodged deep funding cuts.
Physics,, Astronomy

Colliding black holes are reported for a fifth time

By Emily Conover 11:40am, November 16, 2017
LIGO spots another merger, this time with less fanfare.
Astronomy

New camera on Palomar telescope will seek out supernovas, asteroids and more

By Lisa Grossman 12:00pm, November 14, 2017
The Zwicky Transient Facility at Palomar Observatory in California will seek supernovas, black holes and asteroids.
Quantum Physics,, Computing

Quantum computers take a step forward with a 50-qubit prototype

By Emily Conover 9:00am, November 10, 2017
Race to build ever-more-powerful processors edges the technology closer to being able to best traditional machines.
Animals,, Agriculture,, Science & Society

EPA OKs first living pest-control mosquito for use in United States

By Susan Milius 6:58pm, November 8, 2017
Feds approve non-GM male tiger mosquitoes for sale as fake dads to suppress local pests.
Astronomy,, Planetary Science

NASA wants your help naming New Horizons’ next destination

By Mike Denison 2:00pm, November 7, 2017
NASA’s New Horizons mission team is asking the public to vote on a nickname for the spacecraft’s next destination.
Paleontology,, Evolution,, Ecology

What male bias in the mammoth fossil record says about the animal’s social groups

By Carolyn Gramling 12:15pm, November 2, 2017
Male woolly mammoths were more often caught in natural traps that preserved their remains, DNA evidence suggests.
Materials,, Technology

Nobel Prize–winning technique illuminates the fibers that set off battery fires

By Maria Temming 2:00pm, October 26, 2017
Scientists get a closer look at the filaments that ruin lithium-ion batteries from the inside out.
Subscribe to RSS - Science Ticker