Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ULAS J1120+0641: Farthest Quasar Detected

Although not as far as GRB 090429B, ULAS J1120+0641 has become the official farthest quasar in the universe at 12.9 billion miles. It is the brightest object in the universe and its black hole-core has the mass of two billion times our Sun. ULAS J1120+0641 was so named because "it was found using data from the UKIDSS Large Area Survey (ULAS) while the numbers and prefix ‘J’ refer to the quasar’s position in the sky." Scientific Blogging writes.

ULAS J1120+0641 is shown as the small black dot at the center of this picture. It's next to a bright star in the center of the photograph courtesy ESO. 
ULAS J1120+0641 is a quasi-stellar-radio-source (commonly called just a 'quasar'), which is simply put, a very energetic, luminous galactic nucleus; commonly a 'black-hole.' This galactic core is not just a black hole, but the brightest, super-massive black-hole ever located yet. According to a team of research on ULAS J1120+0641, it took them five years to locate the quasar. Bran Venemans, one author of the study, remarks: "We were looking for a quasar with redshift higher than 6.5. Finding one that is this far away, at a redshift higher than 7, was an exciting surprise!"

One thing you should know, 'redshift' is a principle concept in astronomy; but how is 'redshift' actually defined? Astronomical Redshift is the "displacement of the spectrum of an astronomical object toward longer (red) wavelengths," as defined by Encyclopaedia Britannica. It's rare to find objects, especially quasars over 6 redshift, as ULAS J1120+0641 with redshift 7.08. That is an incredible number, because that high of redshift is not usually that common in quasars! "We think there are only about 100 bright quasars with redshift higher than 7 over the whole sky," concludes Daniel Mortlock, the leading author of the paper. "Finding this object required a painstaking search, but it was worth the effort to be able to unravel some of the mysteries of the early Universe." The beneath image is an artist's conception of the glorious object.


This research was presented in a paper to appear in the journal Nature on 30 June 2011. The team is composed of Daniel J. Mortlock (Imperial College London [Imperial], UK), Stephen J. Warren (Imperial), Bram P. Venemans (ESO, Garching, Germany), Mitesh Patel (Imperial), Paul C. Hewett (Institute of Astronomy [IoA], Cambridge, UK), Richard G. McMahon (IoA), Chris Simpson (Liverpool John Moores University, UK), Tom Theuns (Institute for Computational Cosmology, Durham, UK and University of Antwerp, Belgium), Eduardo A. Gonzáles-Solares (IoA), Andy Adamson (Joint Astronomy Centre, Hilo, USA), Simon Dye (Centre for Astronomy and Particle Theory, Nottingham, UK), Nigel C. Hambly (Institute for Astronomy, Edinburgh, UK), Paul Hirst (Gemini Observatory, Hilo, USA), Mike J. Irwin (IoA), Ernst Kuiper (Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands), Andy Lawrence (Institute for Astronomy, Edinburgh, UK), Huub J. A. Röttgering (Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands).

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