J1144 & Fastest Growing Black Hole

Ethan Wong

June 17, 2022

Ever since Astronomy has been studied and recorded, from centuries ago to our very society today, neither technology nor discoveries have allowed scientists to fully grasp and gain understanding of black holes. Recently, a new superblackhole was discovered in Australia by the SkyMapper Telescope, and it is believed to be the fastest-growing black hole ever recorded. The black hole is the mass of 3 billion Suns, and allegedly has the ability to suck in objects around the size of Earth. Although black holes are extremely hard to detect—with their ability to prevent light from escaping them—the small bits of matter that circulate the mysterious dark abyss allow them to become observable through telescopes. In addition to the newly-discovered black hole, scientists also located a new object: J114447.77-430859.3 (J1144), a highly luminous quasar located near the black hole (7000 times brighter than the milky way). Using the SkyMapper Telescope located in Coonabarabran, Australia, scientists were able to locate and identify an astronomical object with large amounts of luminosity, known as a quasar, which is believed to be powered by the newly-discovered black hole. Quasars are often mistaken for stars when looked upon from a person’s backyard. However, this bright light originates from the accretion disk of a black hole, as the powerful gravity sucking in the gas and matter creates heat, which therefore causes the light.

The telescope known for finding and advancing these peculiar objects is the SkyMapper Telescope in central NSW. The telescope has a height of around 11.5 meters, a diameter of 6.25 meters, and helps to provide data about new objects, and their temperatures/masses.The goal of this telescope was to discover and pinpoint billions of different stars that are faint or unseeable to the human eye. The telescope would then create a “map” of the entire sky with detailed scientific information about the millions of stars/galaxies that the telescope found. Ultimately, the telescope will help further advancements in astronomy and allow astronomers to locate areas with dark matter, as well as create a better understanding of our universe. 

The quasar was captured while a team of astronomers had originally been seeking out pairs of binary stars; the feat was discovered by Adrian Lucy, who studied at Columbia University with a Ph.D. According to the lead researcher, Dr. Christopher Onken states that J1144, the bright quasar, might have become so luminous due to the collision of two galaxies, which would’ve funneled all the gas toward the black hole. Although the explanation is not clear, the findings raise a number of questions, such as why it was not discovered earlier, as it is one of the largest and brightest recorded to this date. One of the reasons Dr. Onken theorized that the delayed discovery of J1144 was because astronomers in the past might have avoided gazing up near the milky way, as the abundance of stars would create difficulty in finding anything beyond it. Dr. Onken also commented on the bizarre timing of the quasar, stating “The light that we’re seeing from this growing black hole has been traveling to us for about 7 billion years,”; in comparison the big bang theory which collectively started the universe occurred around 13.5 billion years ago.

The continuous quest to answer the top questions surrounding black holes will likely remain a mystery for many years to come. Since the first signs of black holes in 1964, when NASA investigated a detection of x-rays from a star that was encompassed by dark empty-space, the examination and study of black holes started to become popular. Despite the fact that scientists can barely comprehend the mechanics and physics behind black holes, this new discovery will slowly pave the way toward an answer.