Astronomers observe most-distant supermassive black hole yet discovered

This illustration provided by the Carnegie Institution for Science shows the most-distant supermassive black hole ever discovered which is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. On Wednesday Dec. 6 2017 a team led by the Carn

Quasars, energized by gases spiraling at high speeds into an enormous black hole, are known to inhabit the center of certain galaxies, sometimes outshining all the stars in those galaxies. The black hole sits in the center of an ultrabright quasar, the light of which was emitted just 690 million years after the Big Bang. According to our current understanding, it should take more than 690 million years for a supermassive black hole to accrue the mass of 800 million Suns, so the researchers suggest there must be another unknown mechanism at work.

"The universe was just not old enough to make a black hole that big", Simcoe said in a statement from MIT.

The new black hole's mass, calculated after more observations, adds to an existing problem.

Black holes are a big mystery.

Researchers say they have detected a mysterious supermassive black hole that technically should not exist - and, while studying it, have discovered when the stars first lit up the sky. This shift from neutral to ionized hydrogen represented a fundamental change in the universe that has persisted to this day. That's how astronomers detect black holes.

"The universe is full of surprises", BaƱados said. The results were published today in papers in Nature and Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The Carnegie Institution for Science is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research.

The astronomer who found the unusual black hole said that there's no way of explaining how a black hole would be able to pick up such mass, and that it might challenge out current understandings of how black holes form. FIRE is a spectrometer that classifies objects based on their infrared spectra.

Since the universe is constantly expanding, distant objects are moving away from us, which stretches out the wavelength of the light they emit.

The phenomenon is so big, that it is now 800 million times the mass of the sun.

These larger black holes have had more time to grow in the hearts of galaxies since the Big Bang, compared with the young one just observed.

The newly identified quasar appears to inhabit a pivotal moment in the universe's history. As the universe rapidly expanded, these particles cooled and coalesced into neutral hydrogen gas during an era that is sometimes referred to as the dark ages - a period bereft of any sources of light. Black holes grow when cosmic matter falls into them. Once the universe became reionzed, photons could travel freely throughout space, thus the universe became transparent to light.

Banados said the quasar provides a unique baby picture of the universe, when it was just 5 percent of its current age. For one, they can be used to "X-ray" the universe over large distances. And they measure their size by looking at the brightness of the quasar. That helped scientists estimate that the stars turned on roughly when it began its journey - about 696 million years after the big bang. "We now have the most accurate measurements to date of when the first stars were turning on". Explaining how such a massive black hole could have formed in such a comparatively short amount of available time is a challenge for models of supermassive black hole formation, and effectively rules out some of those models.

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