Sci-tech

Farthest (and earliest) supermassive black hole ever found

Farthest (and earliest) supermassive black hole ever found

"This black hole grew far larger than we expected in only 690 million years after the Big Bang, which challenges our theories about how black holes form", said study co-author Daniel Stern of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The existence of this supermassive black hole when the Universe was only 690 million years old, just five per cent of its current age, reinforces early models of black hole growth that allow black holes with initial masses of more than about 10M⊙ (refs 2, 3) or episodic hyper-Eddington accretion.

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.

Quasars are thought to be among the brightest objects in the universe.

It has been challenging for the scientists to explain how black holes gobbled up enough matter to reach supermassive sizes early in the history.

The astronomers reportedly plan to keep looking for more distant quasars to understand what was happening in the universe at the time. Stars and galaxies were first appearing and their radiation ionizing the surrounding hydrogen gas to illuminate the cosmos.

"The newfound quasar is so luminous and evolved that I would be surprised if this was the first quasar ever formed", Banados said.

Supermassive black holes are thought to exist at the centre of almost every galaxy in the universe. "So, the discovery of this object is tantalizing and lends support to this idea of obese starter black hole seeds".

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But when the black hole was formed, the universe was comprised of about 50 percent ionized (or energized) hydrogen and 50 percent neutral hydrogen. "It has an extremely high mass, and yet the universe is so young that this thing shouldn't exist".

Using FIRE, the team identified one of Bañados' objects as a quasar with a redshift of 7.5, meaning the object was emitting light around 690 million years after the Big Bang.

It also means that astronomers are observing an area of space-time that formed before stars or galaxies were born, the website says - a time we know very little about.

"And it greatly confused us", says MIT Professor of physics Robert Simcoe. As more stars formed from the remains of first-generation stars, they became "polluted" with heavier elements and in turn produce even heavier elements when they explode in supernovae.

In an effort led by MPIA's Bram Venemans, the astronomers targeted the quasar with the millimeter telescope NOEMA, operated by IRAM, in the French Alps and the VLA radio telescope array in Socorro, New Mexico.

For scientists 2017 is the most fruitful year. Follow-up observations, as well as a search for similar quasars, are on track to put our picture of early cosmic history onto a solid footing. That indicated to researchers that the stars were just beginning to glow, he said.


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