Supermassive black hole 'could hold answers to how the universe began'

Astronomers Find the Earliest Supermassive Black Hole Ever Discovered

A huge black hole has just been discovered that is about 13 billion light-years old - nearly as old as the universe itself. "Gathering all this mass in fewer than 690 million years is an enormous challenge for theories of supermassive black hole growth", said Eduardo BaƱados, the Carnegie scientist who spotted it. This massive object, 800 million times more massive than the Sun, is now the most distant quasar ever found, and as a result, it is the earliest one ever observed.

The astronomers reportedly plan to keep looking for more distant quasars to understand what was happening in the universe at the time. Matter such as gas falling onto the black hole will form an ultra-hot accretion disk before falling in, making the whole setup one of the most luminous objects in the universe: a quasar. 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. "With several next-generation, even-more-sensitive facilities now being built, we can expect many exciting discoveries in the very early universe in the coming years". Then, the neutral hydrogen was ionized by the first quasars, which are supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. Scientists have now found a super-sized black hole.

The black hole formed at a time the universe was changing from a neutral environment to an ionized environment, he said. The earliest known galaxy discovered by the Hubble space telescope existed 400 million years after the Big Bang, according to NASA's website.

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"It has an extremely high mass, and yet the universe is so young that this thing shouldn't exist", Robert Simcoe, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement.

While the black hole itself remains a mystery, its existence provided the team with another discovery: information about when the stars first turned on, Simcoe said.

Before, scientists thought that if there were black holes that formed soon after the Big Bang, there would need to be certain conditions which would allow the supermassive black hole to be born. 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. After gravity condensed matter, the first stars and galaxies were formed. Astronomers observe the pattern occurred around 690 million years from the formation of the Universe, even before reionizatsii. 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. In this approach, collapsing clouds in the early universe gave birth to overgrown baby black holes that weighed thousands or tens of thousands of solar masses. At some point, the radiation released by material as it falls into the black hole carries out so much momentum that it blocks new gas from falling in and disrupts the flow.

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