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Giant galaxy hosts the most distant supermassive black hole (RAS PN 09/54)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2009 18:12
Published on Tuesday, 01 September 2009 23:01
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University of Hawaii (UH) astronomer Dr. Tomotsugu Goto and colleagues have discovered a giant galaxy surrounding the most distant supermassive black hole ever found.

GIANT GALAXY HOSTS THE MOST DISTANT SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE
ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
Ref: RAS PN 09/54
Date: 1st September 2009
For immediate release

Forwarded from the University of Hawaii by:
Dr Robert Massey
Press and Policy Officer
Royal Astronomical Society
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GIANT GALAXY HOSTS THE MOST DISTANT SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLE (RAS PN 09/54)

University of Hawaii (UH) astronomer Dr. Tomotsugu Goto and colleagues have discovered a giant galaxy surrounding the most distant supermassive black hole ever found. The galaxy, so distant that it is seen as it was 12.8 billion years ago, is as large as the Milky Way galaxy and harbours a supermassive black hole that contains at least a billion times as much matter as our Sun. The scientists set out their results in a paper in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society later this month.

Dr. Goto stated, "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 one billion times more massive than the Sun. The galaxy and black hole must have formed very rapidly in the early Universe."

Knowledge of the host galaxies of supermassive black holes is important in order to understand the long-standing mystery of how galaxies and black holes have evolved together. Until now, studying
host galaxies in the distant Universe has been extremely difficult because the blinding bright light from the vicinity of the black hole makes it more difficult to see the already faint light from the host galaxy.

Unlike smaller black holes, which form when a large star dies, the origin of the supermassive black holes remains an unsolved problem. A currently favoured model requires several intermediate black holes to merge. The host galaxy discovered in this work provides a reservoir of such intermediate black holes. After forming, supermassive black holes often continue to grow because their gravity draws in matter from surrounding objects. The energy released in this process accounts for the bright light emitted from the region around the black holes.

To see the supermassive black hole, the team of scientists used new red-sensitive Charge Coupled Devices (CCDs) installed in the Suprime-Cam camera on the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea. Prof. Satoshi Miyazaki of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) is a lead investigator for the creation of the new CCDs and a collaborator on this project. He said, "The improved sensitivity of the new CCDs has brought an exciting discovery as its very first result."

A careful analysis of the data revealed that 40 percent of the near-infrared light observed (at the wavelength of 9100 Angstroms) is from the host galaxy itself and 60 percent is from the surrounding clouds of material (nebulae) illuminated by the black hole.

Yousuke Utsumi (Graduate University for Advanced Studies /NAOJ), a member of the project team,
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."

Dr. Goto is a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). He received his PhD from the University of Tokyo in 2003 and has also worked at Carnegie Mellon and Johns Hopkins
universities, and at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, a part of JAXA, the Japanese equivalent of NASA. He came to UH Institute for Astronomy in 2008 to work with Dr. David Sanders on quasi-stellar objects (QSOs) and luminous infrared galaxies.

Other members of the research team are Dr. Hisanori Furusawa (NAOJ) and Dr. Yutaka Komiyama (NAOJ).

FURTHER INFORMATION

High-resolution images (and associated captions) of the emission from the QSO containing the black hole and its surrounding galaxy are available with the release text from http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~tomo/QSOhost/index.html

This research will be published in the online version of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society this month. The paper is available at
http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~tomo/QSOhost/QSOhost_v7.pdf

CONTACT

Dr. Tomotsugu Goto (JSPS SPD fellow, University of Hawaii)
Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii
2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, HI, 96822
Tel: +1 808 956 0982
Fax: +1 808 956 2901
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.