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The brightest object in the universe has been discovered

The brightest object in the universe has been discovered

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Astronomers have discovered what may be the brightest object in the universe, a quasar with a black hole at its core that is growing so fast that it is swallowing the equivalent of a sun every day.

This record-breaking quasar shines 500 trillion times brighter than our Sun. The black hole powering this distant quasar is more than 17 billion times larger than our Sun, an Australian-led team reported Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

While the quasar appears in pictures as a simple dot, scientists imagine a fierce place.

The rotating disk around the quasar's black hole — luminous rotating gas and other matter from swallowed stars — resembles a cosmic tornado.

“This quasar is the most intense place we know of in the universe,” lead author Christian Wolff of the Australian National University said in an email.

The European Southern Observatory spotted the object J0529-4351 during a sky survey in 1980, but it was thought to be a star. Only last year it was identified as a quasar, the active and highly luminous core of the galaxy. This was confirmed by observations made by telescopes in Australia and the Chilean Atacama Desert.

“What’s interesting about this quasar is that it was hidden in plain sight and had been misclassified as a star before,” Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.

These subsequent observations and computer modeling determined that the quasar devours the equivalent of 370 suns per year, or about one sun per day. Further analysis shows that the black hole's mass is 17 to 19 billion times the mass of our Sun, according to the team. More observations are needed to understand their growth rate.

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The quasar is located 12 billion light-years away and has been around since the early days of the universe. One light year is equal to about 9,500 billion kilometers.