As is common knowledge, black holes cannot be seen since their intense gravity prevents even light from escaping. However, such cataclysmic objects can not go entirely unnoticed. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have observed the disc of spinning dust and gas surrounding a black hole called a quasar accretion disc through a process called gravitational lensing. This is the first time astronomers have been able to observe and measure the properties of a quasar directly. In the image above, the quasar is the smeary spot above the bright galaxy in the foreground.
As amazing as this accomplishment is, the process scientists used to make it are equally staggering.
Two teams working with researchers from the California Institute of Technology have discovered the largest mass of water yet observed. The gaseous, watery cloud was spotted around the quasar APM 08279+5255 some 30 billion trillion miles from Earth. And yes, there will be a lot more "-illions" used before the end of this post.
The water surrounding the quasar is in the form of vapor, but taken all together it is about 140 trillion times the amount of water in Earth's oceans and is 100,000 times more massive than our sun. Because the quasar is so far away, its light has taken 12 billion years to reach Earth. This fantastic distance gives scientists a unique look at what the universe looked like when it was a mere 1.6 billion years old. (For reference, NASA estimates that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old.) Interestingly, water is not uncommon throughout the universe, though the amount of water around this quasar alone is estimated to be 4,000 times the water in the Milky Way.
A quasar, a space object that emits extremely high amounts of energy, that is both the farthest and the brightest ever recorded has been discovered by the European Southern Observatory. It is believed that quasars contain black holes, and this one is powered by a black hole at its center that is two billion times the size of the sun. The brightest phenomena that are observed in space include gamma-ray bursts and galaxies in the redshifts, but the light emitted by the quasar far surpasses any of these other events.
The quasar has been named ULAS J1120+0641, and researchers estimate based on the amount of time it would take for the light form the quasar to reach earth, that it may be 12.9 billion years old. The quasar was discovered at five years of searching through a database of images generated by the European UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS), using the UK's dedicated infrared telescope in HI. The findings were published in the journal Nature.