Found the oldest supermassive black hole

Herbert Rhodes
December 8, 2017

The light from this quasar was emitted 690 million years after the Big Bang, relatively close to the beginning of everything.

"Quasars are among the brightest and most distant known celestial objects and are crucial to understanding the early Universe", said co-author Bram Venemans of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

The black hole is measured to be about 800 million times as massive as our sun - a Goliath by modern-day standards and a relative anomaly in the early universe. Astronomers have found a quasar - an active supermassive black hole - that is so distant, and thus so far back in time, that it challenges their models of how these gargantuan objects form.

The black hole was detected by Eduardo BaƱados of the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who was scouring surveys of the sky to look for ancient objects like this one. That light has taken about 13 billion years to reach us - a span of time that is almost equal to the age of the universe. Astronomers refer to this Doppler-like phenomenon as "redshift"; the more distant an object, the farther its light has shifted toward the red, or infrared end of the spectrum.

Supermassive discovered was a quasar, which can provide fundamental information about the Universe, the age of about 5 per cent of its current age.

To make things even more interesting, this appears to be a supermassive black hole - the most massive known objects in the universe, the likes of which are thought to lie at the center of all galaxies.

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Black holes are some of the most mysterious regions of space ever discovered.

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 took another 13 billion years to reach the earth, the researchers found. "So, the discovery of this object is tantalizing and lends support to this idea of obese starter black hole seeds". "But it's pretty hard to get that kind of a mass that early in the universe".

"The universe was just not old enough to make a black hole that big". As the universe expanded in size, those particles cooled down, and as they did they formed into a neutral hydrogen gas during which it was completely dark. After gravity condensed matter, the first stars and galaxies were formed.

"This is a very exciting discovery", he said.

The newly-discovered black hole is part of a quasar, meaning it sits at the center of a cloud of gas that it's slowly swallowing. Astronomers observe the pattern occurred around 690 million years from the formation of the Universe, even before reionizatsii. They extrapolated from that to estimate that the universe as a whole was likely about half neutral and half ionized at the time they observed the quasar. This black hole was seen gorging material at the centre of the galaxy.

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