Astronomers have discovered a quasar that shines 500 trillion times brighter than our Sun

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Astronomers have discovered what may be the brightest object in the universe, a quasar with a black hole at its core that is growing so fast that it is swallowing the equivalent of a sun every day.

The record-breaking quasar shines 500 trillion times brighter than our Sun. The black hole powering this distant quasar is 17 billion times larger than our Sun, an Australian-led team reported Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

While the quasar looks like just a dot in photographs, scientists envision a ferocious place.

The rotating disk around a quasar's black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from devouring stars — resembles a cosmic tornado.

“This quasar is the most intense place we know of in the universe,” lead author Christian Wolff of the Australian National University said in an email.

The European Southern Observatory spotted the object J0529-4351 during a sky survey in 1980, but it was thought to be a star. It was not identified as a quasar — ​​the highly active, luminous core of the galaxy — until last year. Observations made with telescopes in Australia and the Atacama Desert in Chile have resolved it.

“The interesting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was previously misclassified as a star,” Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.

These subsequent observations and computer modeling determined that the quasar devours the equivalent of 370 suns per year, roughly the equivalent of one sun per day. Additional analysis shows that the black hole's mass is 17 to 19 billion times the mass of our Sun, according to the team. More observations are needed to understand their growth rate.

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The quasar is located 12 billion light-years away and has been around since the early days of the universe. A light year equals 5.8 trillion miles.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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