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[Slashdot] - Universe's Oldest Known Quasar Discovered 13 Billion Light-Years Away

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Astronomers have found the farthest known source of radio emissions in the universe: a quasar 13 billion light-years from Earth spewing jets of particles at nearly the speed of light. Live Science reports: Quasars are some of the oldest, most distant, most massive and brightest objects in the universe. They make up the cores of galaxies where a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole gorges on all the matter that's unable to escape its gravitational grasp. While the black hole is devouring this matter, it's also blasting out an enormous amount of radiation that collectively can be more than a trillion times more luminous than the brightest stars, making quasars the brightest objects in the observable universe. This quasar in particular, named P172+18, is a relic from around 780 million years after the Big Bang and reveals clues about one of the earliest ages of the universe -- the epoch of reionization. At the start of this period, the universe was darkly veiled by a mostly uniform cloud of hydrogen gas. Scientists refer to this time as the universe's dark ages, because most light emitted was quickly absorbed by the neutrally charged gas. Eventually, gravity collapsed the primordial gas into the first stars and quasars, which began to heat and ionize the surrounding gases, allowing light to pass through. [...] Further observations from telescopes [...] showed that P172+18 is nearly 300 million times more massive than the sun and is among the fastest-growing quasars ever discovered. The problem is, scientists don't know how a black hole became so massive this early on in the universe. The radio jets could be an explanation. The researchers' findings will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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