The most distant quasar ever spotted hails from the universe’s infancy


supermassive black hole
GRAVITATIONAL GUZZLER The black hole powering the quasar J1342+0928 (illustrated) weighs as much as 800 million suns, but it existed when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age. Scientists aren’t sure how black holes grew so big so early.

The most distant quasar yet spotted sends its light from the universe’s toddler years. The quasar, called J1342+0928, existed when the universe was only 690 million years old, right when the first stars and galaxies were forming.

Quasars are bright disks of gas and dust swirling around supermassive black holes. The black hole that powers J1342+0928 has a mass equivalent to 800 million suns, and it’s gobbling gas and dust so fast that its disk glows as bright as 400 trillion suns, Eduardo Bañados of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Pasadena, Calif., and his colleagues report…

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