They detect the most distant radio signal that has ever reached Earth: 13 billion years from us
Using the Very Large Telescope of the European Observatory, a group of astronomers has discovered what to date is the most distant radio signal known. About 13 billion light years from us, this signal comes from so far away that the source emitting it was formed in “the early days” of the Universe.
According the published study, the signal seems to come from a quasar. Quasars are extremely bright objects at the center of some galaxies that feed on supermassive black holes. As black holes consume the gas around them, they release energy that can be detected by astronomers.
In this case, the quasar from which the signal is believed to arrive has been baptized with the technical name of P172 + 18. By the distance at which it is, it took about 13 billion years for the signal to reach us. That means that it occurred practically at the origins of the early Universe, when it was “only” about 780 million years old.
They believe that P172 + 18 is being powered by a black hole about 300 million times greater in mass than the Sun. From the emissions that astronomers have detected, they estimate it to be one of the largest mass growth rates ever detected in a supermassive black hole.
While more distant quasars have been found, this is the first one that has been detected to emit radio waves from such a long distance. And is that not all quasars are radioactive, only about 10% of those discovered. The theory is that the jets emitted by the quasar are capable of disturbing the gas around the black hole, increasing the rate at which it falls and is engulfed by the black hole.
Observing signs of the Universe
Observing such a distant Universe object is of enormous value for scientific exploration. And it is that in certain mucus the more distant it is, the older it is. This allows us to understand and better study the past of the Universe and its origin.
That said, the radio signal detected it is neither the first nor probably the last that we see come to Earth. Previously we saw the origin of some on a magnetar 30,000 light years from us, also closer in Proxima Centauri. Although undoubtedly the most curious are those that arrive periodically like the one that does every 16 days and the one that does it every 157 days.