A long jet of particles streams from a supermassive black hole discovered by NASA

NASA has announced that astronomers have discovered evidence of an extremely long jet of particles emanating from a supermassive black hole in the early universe. The discovery was made using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. If the finding is confirmed, it will mark the most distant supermassive black hole with a jet ever detected using x-rays.

The supermassive black hole lies in a galaxy 12.7 billion light-years from Earth. Researchers hope the jet of gas spewing from the black hole might help explain how the biggest black holes formed at such an early time in the universe. The quasar producing the jet of material is named PSO J352.4034-15.3373, or PJ352-15 for short.

The quasar is in the center of a young galaxy and is one of a pair of known quasars producing powerful radio waves created in the first billion years after the Big Bang. The quasar is thought to be about a billion times more massive than the sun. Scientists want to know how supermassive black holes grew so quickly in the early times of the universe; a question said to be one of the key questions in astronomy.

Astronomers observed PJ352-15 for three days using Chandra to detect evidence of the jet of materials. X-ray emissions were detected as far away as 160,000 light-years from the quasar. It's certainly hard to put 160,000 light-years in perspective, but consider the Milky Way galaxy only spans 100,000 light-years.

PJ352-15 breaks several astronomical records, including the record for the longest jet observed from the first billion years after the Big Bang. The previous record-holder was a scant 5000 light-years in length. The second record NASA says PJ352-15 has crushed is distance. It lies about 300 million light-years farther away from Earth than the most distant x-ray jet detected before. The light detected from the jet was emitted when the universe was 0.98 billion years old, less than a tenth of its present age.