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SDSSp J1306:
Precocious Supermassive Black Holes Challenge Theories

SDSSp J1306
Image: NASA/CXC/D.Schwartz & S.Virani; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss
JPEG (170 kb), Tiff (24.6 MB), PS (4.5 MB)

The X-rays observed by Chandra (inset) from the quasar SDSSp J1306 (or J1306) have taken 12.7 billion light years to reach Earth, only a billion years less than the estimated 13.7-billion-year age of the Universe. Surprisingly, in this quasar, which is seen as it was at an early epoch, the distribution of X-rays with energy - the X-ray spectrum - is indistinguishable from that of nearby, older quasars. The smaller object in the upper left of the image is a foreground galaxy.

The X-ray and optical properties of J1306 imply that a billion-solar-mass black hole is the central engine behind its prodigious energy output, which exceeds that of 20 trillion suns. The Chandra results for J1306, and similar XMM-Newton data on another distant quasar, provide evidence that supermassive black holes were fully grown less than a billion years after the Big Bang. This rapid growth is difficult to explain using most current models for the formation of supermassive black holes.

j1306 illustration
Illustration of Quasar SDSSp J1306
One possibility that might work is that millions of 100-solar-mass black holes formed from the collapse of massive stars in the young galaxy. These black holes subsequently built up a billion-solar-mass black hole in the center of the galaxy through mergers and accretion of gas.

The precise geometry and details of an X-ray producing region around a supermassive black hole are not known. However, it is known that the high-energy X-ray spectra of numerous quasars having a wide range of ages are very similar, so the conditions must be similar.

The accompanying illustration shows how these high-energy X-rays might be produced. Material from a large torus of gas and dust in the center of a galaxy is pulled toward a black hole. Most of the infalling gas is concentrated in a rapidly rotating disk, and a hot atmosphere or corona where temperatures can climb to billions of degrees. Collisions of low-energy optical, ultraviolet and X-ray photons from the disk with the hot electrons in the corona boost the energy of the photons up to the high-energy X-ray range.

Fast Facts for SDSSp J1306:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/D.Schwartz & S.Virani; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss
Scale  Image is 0.6 arcmin per side
Category  Quasars & Active Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 13h 06m 08.26s | Dec +03º 56' 26.30"
Constellation  Virgo
Observation Date November 29, 2003
Obs. ID  3966
Observation Time  33 hours
Color Code  Intensity
Instrument  ACIS
References  D. Schwartz and S. Virani, Astrophys. J. 615, L21, 2004
D. Farrah et al. Astrophys. J. 611, L13, 2004
Distance Estimate  12.7 Billion light years (redshift z = 5.99)
Also Known As  SDSSp J130608.26+035626.3
Release Date  November 22, 2004

More Information on SDSSp J1306:
Press Room: SDSSp J1306 Press Release
More Images of SDSSp J1306
SDSSp J1306 Handout: html | pdf
Powerpoint and PDF
Related Chandra Images:
Photo Album: SDSS 0836+0054, 1030+0524, & 1306+0356 (28 Mar 02)
Photo Album: GB1508+5714 (17 Nov 03)
Photo Album: PKS 0637-752 (26 Aug 99)
Quasars & Active Galaxies:
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide: Quasars & Active Galaxies
Questions and Answers: Galaxies, Galaxy Clusters, AGN, and Quasars
Chandra Images: Quasars & Active Galaxies


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