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article imageUniverse's most luminous galaxy made by immense black hole found

By Stephen Morgan     May 23, 2015 in Science
It shines with the force of 300 trillion suns. Discovered by NASA's WISE spacecraft, it is the most luminous galaxy in the universe.
Known as WISE J224607.57-052635.0, it is part of a recently identified class of objects called ELIRGs – "Extremely Luminous Infrared Galaxies," which are only found in deep space.
Astronomers believe that, behind its dazzling brilliance, lurks a super massive black hole, with a mass billions of times that of our Sun.
Situated in the galaxy's center, this dark monster sucks in gas and matter which then forms into a disk around the entry to the black hole — its event horizon, beyond which nothing can be seen, and nothing can escape.
Phys.org explains that this disk is then heated up to "roaring temperatures of millions of degrees..blasting out high-energy, visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray light." That light is then enclosed by cocoons of dust, which radiate infrared light.
Chao-Wei Tsai of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of a new report appearing in the May 22 issue of The Astrophysical Journal said.
"We are looking at a very intense phase of galaxy evolution. This dazzling light may be from the main growth spurt of the galaxy's black hole."
Black holes are often found in the heart of galaxies, but this one has surprised scientists, because it so remote, says a NASA press release.
It has remained illusive, not only because of its distance, but because it was only the capabilities of the WISE spacecraft, which were able to detect the infrared light from its dust. Now renamed NEOWISE, the craft has found another 20 similar galaxies, of which this one is the most amazingly brilliant.
It is so far away that light from the galaxy takes 12.5 billion years to reach us, and therefore we are seeing it as it was in the very distant past, relatively early on in the history of the universe,
The reason why this black hole is so gigantic, at this stage in its development, poses some new questions for scientists about black holes in general.
Simulated view of a black hole in front of the Large Magellanic Cloud
Simulated view of a black hole in front of the Large Magellanic Cloud
Alain R.
Astronomy Magazine says there are three hypotheses being put forward.
The first possibility is that this galactic leviathan was simply born big. If so, this would mean that embryonic black holes can be far larger than previously thought possible.
The magazine quotes Peter Eisenhardt from JPL, who stated, “How do you get an elephant? One way is start with a baby elephant.”
The second explanation involves the breaking or bending of the so-called Eddington limit, which postulates that there is a limit to the amount of gases and matter a black hole could devour.
This happens when "the pressure of the light actually pushes the gas away, creating a limit to how fast the black hole can continuously scarf down matter," explains Astronomy Magazine.
Some black holes have already been observed breaking this limit. Theoretically, this would allow a black hole to expand in size at a terrific speed. But, for this particular black hole to have grown to these proportions, scientists say it must have repeatedly broken the restriction, or to have bent it in some way.
The third possibility is that this black hole is a sort of obese, cosmic binge-eater.
“Another way for a black hole to grow this big is for it to have gone on a sustained binge," says Tsai.
Therefore, it might be eating matter faster than thought possible, and that would mean it is spinning more slowly than other black holes. Rotating at a reduced velocity would help it keep more of its food down, so to speak.
“The massive black holes in ELIRGs could be gorging themselves on more matter for a longer period of time,” said Andrew Blain of the University of Leicester, UK.
“It’s like winning a hot-dog-eating contest lasting hundreds of millions of years.”
The researchers plan to make more detailed studies of these ultra brilliant galaxies, and hope to be able to quantify the mass of the monsters, which will, in turn, give us a better understanding of the frenetic period of the universe's formation, in which they were formed.
The report was published in the May 22 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
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