Monster Billion Mass Solar Hole Black Hole found in the Early Universe


Seed black hole

Artist’s impression of the formation of the Pōniuā`ena quasar, beginning with a seed black hole, 100 million years after the Big Bang. Credit: International Gemini Observatory / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA / P. Marenfeld

The most massive quasar known in the early universe discovered in Maunakea.

The second most distant quasar ever discovered now has a Hawaiian name.

Astronomers have discovered the second most distant quasar ever found using three Maunakea Observatories in Hawaii: the WM Keck Observatory, the Gemini International Observatory, a NSF NOIRLab Program, and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, owned by the University of Hawaii. (UKIRT)) He is the first quasar to receive an indigenous Hawaiian name, Pōniuāʻena, which means “invisible rotating source of creation, surrounded by brilliance” in the Hawaiian language.

Pōniuāʻena is only the second quasar detected at a distance calculated from a cosmological redshift greater than 7.5 and houses a dungeon twice as large as the other known quasar at the same time. The existence of these massive black holes in these early times challenges current theories of how supermassive black holes formed and grew in the young universe.

Research has been accepted in The letters of the astrophysical journal.

Billion Solar Mass Black Hole

Artist’s impression of the formation of the Pōniuā`ena quasar that turns into a black hole of a billion solar masses 700 million years after the Big Bang. Credit: International Gemini Observatory / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA / P. Marenfeld

Quasars are the most energetic objects in the universe powered by their supermassive black holes, and since their discovery astronomers have been interested in determining when they first appeared in our cosmic history. By systematically searching for these rare objects in wide-area sky studies, astronomers discovered the most distant quasar (called J1342 + 0928) in 2018 and now the second most distant, Pōniuāʻena (or J1007 + 2115, redshift 7,515). The light seen from Pōniuāʻena traveled through space for more than 13 billion years since it left the quasar just 700 million years after the big Bang.

Spectroscopic observations from the Keck Observatory and Gemini Observatory show that the supermassive black hole that feeds Pōniuāʻena is 1.5 billion times more massive than our Sun.

“Pōniuāʻena is the most distant known object in the universe that houses a black hole of more than a billion solar masses,” said Jinyi Yang, a postdoctoral fellow researcher at the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona and lead author of the study.

For a black hole of this size to form so early in the universe, it would need to start as a solar mass “seed” black hole of approximately 100 million years after the Big Bang, rather than growing out of a hole. much smaller black formed by The collapse of a single star.

“How can the universe produce such a massive black hole so early in its history?” said Xiaohui Fan, professor of Regents and head of the associate department of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. “This discovery presents the greatest challenge to the theory of black hole formation and growth in the early universe.”

Current theory holds that the birth of stars and galaxies, as we know them, began during the Reionization Era, beginning some 400 million years after the Big Bang. The growth of the first giant black holes is believed to have occurred during that same era in the history of the universe.

The discovery of quasars like Pōniuāʻena, deep in the reionization era, is a great step towards understanding this reionization process and the formation of the first supermassive black holes and massive galaxies. Pōniuāʻena has imposed new and important restrictions on the evolution of matter between galaxies (intergalactic medium) in the reionization era.

“Pōniuāʻena acts as a cosmic beacon. As its light travels the long journey to Earth, its spectrum is altered by diffuse gas in the intergalactic medium that allowed us to determine when the Epoch of Reionization occurred, “said co-author Joseph Hennawi, a professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Yang’s team first detected Pōniuāʻena as a possible quasar after examining large areas such as the UKIRT Hemisphere Survey and data from the Pan-STARRS1 telescope at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii on the Island of Maui.

In 2019, researchers observed the object using the GNIRS instrument from the Gemini Observatory, as well as the Echellette Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRES) from the Keck Observatory to confirm the existence of Pōniuāʻena.

“Preliminary Gemini data suggested this could be an important discovery. Our team had a scheduled observation time at Keck just a few weeks later, perfectly scheduled to observe the new quasar using Keck’s NIRES spectrograph to confirm its extremely high redshift and measure the mass of its black hole, “said the co-author. Aaron Barth, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Irvine.

In honor of their discovery from the top of Maunakea, 30 Hawaiian immersion school teachers called the quasar Pōniuāʻena through the ‘Huai Inoa’ program of the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, led by renowned Hawaiian language expert Dr. Larry Kimura .

“We recognize that there are different ways of knowing the universe,” said John O’Meara, chief scientist at the Keck Observatory. “Pōniuāʻena is a wonderful example of the interconnectedness of science and culture, with a shared appreciation of how different knowledge systems enrich each other.”

“I am extremely grateful to be a part of this educational experience, it is a rare learning opportunity,” said Kauʻi Kaina, a Hawaiian high school immersion teacher from Kahuku, Oʻahu, who participated in the naming workshop. “Today it is relevant to apply these cultural values ​​to promote the well-being of the Hawaiian language beyond ordinary contexts such as at school, but also to ensure that the language lives throughout the universe.”

Reference: “Pōniuā’ena: A Luminous z = 7.5 Quasar Hosting a 1.5 Billion Solar Mass Black Hole” by Jinyi Yang, Feige Wang, Xiaohui Fan, Joseph F. Hennawi, Frederick B. Davies, Minghao Yue, Eduardo Banados, Xue- Bing Wu, Bram Venemans, Aaron J. Barth, Fuyan Bian, Konstantina Boutsia, Roberto Decarli, Emanuele Paolo Farina, Richard Green, Linhua Jiang, Jiang-Tao Li, Chiara Mazzucchelli and Fabian Walter


The Echellette Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRES) is a prism cross dispersion near infrared spectrograph built at the California Institute of Technology by a team led by Chief Instrument Scientist Keith Matthews and Professor Tom Soifer. Commissioned in 2018, NIRES covers a wide wavelength range at moderate spectral resolution for use in the Keck II telescope and observes extremely faint red objects found with the Spitzer and WISE infrared space telescopes, as well as brown dwarfs, high-displacement galaxies red and quasars. Support for this technology was generously provided by Mt. Cuban Astronomical Foundation.

About the WM Keck Observatory

The WM Keck Observatory telescopes are among the most scientifically productive on Earth. The two 10-meter optical / infrared telescopes at the Maunakea summit on the island of Hawai’i feature an advanced instrument suite including imaging, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral field spectrometers, and world-leading lasers. Adaptive Star Optics Systems Guide.

Some of the data presented here was obtained from the Keck Observatory, which is a private 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization operated as a scientific partnership between the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics Administration and from Space. The Observatory was made possible thanks to the generous financial support of the WM Keck Foundation.

The authors wish to acknowledge and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the Maunakea Summit has always had within the native Hawaiian community. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to make observations from this mountain.