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It takes a black hole to create the most luminous galaxy in the Universe

New find questions current theories about the evolution of the universe

With WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, NASA has been successful in capturing the lightwaves from the brightest galaxy in our Universe, now also known as WISE J224607.57-052635.0.

One might think that one sun is bright enough, and even more so millions of them in a usual galaxy, but here we’re talking about an ELIRG – an Extremely Luminous InfraRed Galaxy, and that’s a relatively new discovery in astronomy.

There is a black hole in the center of the galaxy, which would be the case for basically all galaxies out there, but this one is just… well, for starters, this black hole was billions of times larger in mass than our own sun is, already back when our own universe was only a tenth of its current age. And today, this record breaking galaxy probably does not even exist any longer, considering that it’s taken the light from the galaxy about 12.5 billion years to get here. We’re looking at something that is not actually there, and it’s still the most luminous thing in space.

This supermassive black hole draws all gas, matter and light into its core due to the incredible gravitational pull. All the gas and matter forms a disk around the black hole, waiting to be devoured, and as it rotates it heats up to millions of degrees. This motion and heat together creates blasts of lightwaves, such as X-rays, ultraviolet and visible light. It was one of these wavelengths that WISE picked up, as reported by Chao-Wei Tsai at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

A black hole can become a supermassive black hole only if it does not rotate too quickly, scientists believe. When moving with a higher speed around its own axis, it also repels matter and keeps it from getting pulled into the center. So the slower the rotation is, the bigger the potential to grow really big becomes.

The spacecraft, WISE, that was used to pick up the infrared outburst from the super bright galaxy, was renamed NEOWISE in September 2013, and got assigned another type of mission: to help identify near-Earth objects that could be potentially hazardous.

Image: NASA