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Brightest and hungriest black hole ever detected

The most luminous object ever detected has been spied in the distant Universe, the BBC reports.

It’s a quasar – the bright core of a galaxy that is powered by a gargantuan black hole some 17 billion times the mass of our Sun.

Known as J0529-4351, the object’s power was confirmed in observations by the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Scientists, reporting in the journal Nature Astronomy, say the black hole has a voracious appetite, consuming the mass equivalent to one Sun every day.

J0529-4351 was actually recorded in data many years ago but its true glory has only just been recognised.

“It is a surprise that it has remained unknown until today, when we already know about a million less impressive quasars. It has literally been staring us in the face until now,” said Christopher Onken, one of the astronomers from the Australian National University (ANU) working on the VLT observations.

The term quasar is used to describe a galaxy with a very active and energetic core. The black hole at the center of such a galaxy is pulling matter towards itself at a prodigious rate.

As this material is accelerated around the hole, it is torn apart and emits a huge amount of light, so much so that even an object as distant as J0529-4351 is still visible to us.

This quasar’s emission has taken a staggering 12 billion years to reach the detectors at the VLT.

Everything about the object is astonishing.

The scientists involved say the energy emitted makes the quasar over 500 trillion times more luminous than the Sun.

“All this light comes from a hot accretion disc that measures seven light-years in diameter. This must be the largest accretion disc in the Universe,” said ANU PhD student and co-author Samuel Lai.

Seven light-years is about 15,000 times the distance from the Sun to the orbit of Neptune.

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