For all those interested in radio astronomy, the mystery continues and deepens. Scientists have now discovered the most distant radio blast ever known to mankind. The blast came from a quasar or a quasi-stellar object (an extremely luminous active galactic nucleus) that is so far away that its light actually took 13 billion years to arrive at Earth.

supermassive black hole,
This artist's concept shows the most distant supermassive black hole ever discovered. It is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang.Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science

Simplified further, that means that the signal detected by scientists is coming from a time when the universe was 780 million years old. That sounds like stuff straight out of a Christopher Nolan movie.
Scientists have differentiated this particular quasar on the basis of it being radio-loud. More distant quasars have been detected in the past, but the new one is radio-loud. Which means, this is for the first time that the radio jets have been able to detect from such a distant object.

Black hole
Evidence for the biggest explosion seen in the universe comes from a combination of X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Europe's XMM-Newton space telescope, and the Murchison Widefield Array and Giant Metrewave Telescope, as shown here. The eruption is generated by a black hole located in the cluster's central galaxy, which has blasted out jets and carved a large cavity in the surrounding hot gas. Researchers estimate this explosion released five times more energy than the previous record holder and hundreds of thousands of times more than a typical galaxy cluster. (Image: © X-ray: Chandra: NASA/CXC/NRL/S. Giacintucci, et al., XMM-Newton: ESA/XMM-Newton; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRT; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF)NASA

The scientists inspected the quasar from the Magellan Telescope in Chile at Las Campanas Observatory.

What are quasars and radio blasts?

Found at the centre of some galaxies, Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe. They are also powered by super massive black holes. It is believed by scientists that only one tenth of the quasars are radio-loud or have jets that throw out radio emissions. That's how they are so luminous. Radio bursts or Fast Radio Bursts are, as the name suggests, bright bursts of radio waves. Since their duration lie in the millisecond scale, it is difficult to detect them and determine their position in the sky.

How are they detected?

Black holes eat the surrounding the gas around the quasars, thereby throwing out energy that has the capacity to travel across the universe. That's how these can be studied by scientists. Also, majorly thanks to sophisticated and advanced equipment, including the ESOs (very large telescope) that enabled scientists to observe the black holes in detail.

The quasar in question is named P172+18, and is powered by a massive black hole – which is 300 times bigger than Sun. It is believed to devour everything around it and remains one of the fastest growing black holes ever observed. A paper describing the finding is titled The Discovery of a Highly Accrediting Radio-Loud Quasar at z=6.82" and is set to be published in The Astronomical Journal.