HONOLULU (AP) - Scientists using the Subaru telescope on the Big Island reported the discovery of a giant galaxy surrounding the most distant supermassive black hole ever found.
The galaxy located 12.8 billion light-years from Earth is as large as our own Milky Way galaxy, the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy said Wednesday. The universe itself is thought to be 13.7 billion years old.
''It is surprising that such a giant galaxy existed when the universe was only one-sixteenth of its present age, and that it hosted a black hole 1 billion times more massive than the sun. The galaxy and black hole must have formed very rapidly in the early universe,'' University of Hawaii astronomer Tomotsugu Goto said.
Scientists need knowledge of host galaxies of supermassive black holes to solve the long-standing mystery of how they evolved together, the institute said.
Until now, studying host galaxies in the distant universe has been difficult because the blinding light from the vicinity of a black hole makes it difficult to see the already faint light from its host galaxy, it said.
To see the supermassive black hole CFHQSJ2329-0301, Goto and his colleagues used new red-sensitive charge-coupled devices installed in the Suprime-Cam camera on the telescope atop Mauna Kea. CCDs are light-sensitive electronic devices that convert light into electronic signals that can be digitally processed.
Analysis of the light revealed 40 percent came from the host galaxy and 60 percent was from the surrounding ionized nebulae illuminated by the black hole, the scientists said.
''We have witnessed a supermassive black hole and its host galaxy forming together. This discovery has opened a new window for investigating galaxy-black-hole co-evolution at the dawn of the universe,'' said Yousuke Utsumi of the national observatory's Graduate University for Advanced Studies and a member of the project team.
The research is to be published this month in the online version of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.