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UH astronomers find galaxy and farthest black hole ever


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POSTED: Friday, September 04, 2009

A giant galaxy surrounding the most distant supermassive black hole ever detected has been discovered by University of Hawaii astronomers working with the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea.

Researcher Tomotsugu Goto and his colleagues reported the galaxy is 12.8 billion light-years away, appearing as it would have when the universe was only 6 percent of its current age.

Astronomers said they were surprised to find such a large galaxy so early in the formation of the cosmos.

“;The age of the universe at that time was only one-sixteenth of its present age,”; Goto said in an interview and a UH Institute for Astronomy news release. “;It's 13.7 billion years now.”;

The galaxy is as large as the Milky Way and contains a black hole with a mass at least a billion times as much matter as the sun, he said.

“;They are probably co-evolving and growing together.”;

Understanding galaxies that host supermassive black holes is important to learn how galaxies and black holes evolve together, he said. “;There must be a connection.”;

One theory is that several intermediate black holes merge to form a supermassive black hole.

Studying host galaxies early in the universe has been difficult because bright light from energy in the black hole region obscures the faint light from the host galaxy, the researchers said.

Goto and his team used red-sensitive charge coupled devices in the Subaru telescope's Suprime-Cam camera to see the supermassive black hole. CCDs turn light into electrical signals.

Satoshi Miyazaki of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, lead investigator of the new devices, collaborated on Goto's project.

“;The improved sensitivity of the new CCDs has brought an exciting discovery as its very first result,”; Miyazaki said.

Goto plans to continue his observations with the Keck Telescope on Mauna Kea in November using adaptive optics for sharper images. He also is writing a proposal to pursue his studies with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Goto joined the Institute for Astronomy last year to work with astronomer David Sanders on quasi-stellar objects and luminous infrared galaxies. Others on the research team are Yousuke Utsumi, Hisanori Furusawa and Yutaka Komiyama, all with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

Their findings will be reported in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.