Farthest (and earliest) supermassive black hole ever found

08 December, 2017, 01:43 | Author: Marie Harrington
  • Artist's conception of the most-distant supermassive black hole ever discovered which is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang is shown in this illustration released

The researchers also show that the black hole already weighed a hard-to-explain 780 million times the mass of the sun.

What makes the discovery so significant, says Engadget, is that the matter surrounding the supermassive black hole formed "just hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang". Eduardo Bañados, lead author of the article describing the discovery, says: "Reionization was the universe's last major transition, and it is one of the current frontiers in astrophysics".

"This is the only object that we can observe from that era".

"Here we see this thing that's very bright coming from very early in the universe", Simcoe said.

"What we have found is that the universe was about 50/50 - it's a moment when the first galaxies emerged from their cocoons of neutral gas and started to shine their way out", says MIT's Robert Simcoe, co-author of the study.

This is very unlike the black holes that form in the present-day universe, which rarely exceed a few dozen solar masses.

At the center of a distant galaxy, scientists have found the oldest black hole ever discovered, and it's so freaky it's posing some perplexing questions.

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"I don't think 10 or 15 years ago anybody would expect there to be such a massive black hole that early in the universe", Geballe said.

After identifying several objects of interest, Bañados focused in on them using an instrument known as FIRE (the Folded-port InfraRed Echellette), which was built by Simcoe and operates at the 6.5-meter-diameter Magellan telescopes in Chile. Immediately following the Big Bang, the universe resembled a cosmic soup of hot, extremely energetic particles. Stars then switched on and reacted with the swirling hydrogen, beginning of process of re-ionization.

It's the first time we are able to detect something this old, and the prospect is exciting as it offers us a unique glimpse into the past. It took another 13 billion years to reach the earth, the researchers found. 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.

The astronomers reportedly plan to keep looking for more distant quasars to understand what was happening in the universe at the time. It's part of a long-term search for the earliest quasars, which will continue. From this, they inferred that stars must have begun turning on during this time, 690 million years after the Big Bang. "We now have the most accurate measurements to date of when the first stars were turning on".

Supermassive black holes are thought to exist at the centre of almost every galaxy in the universe. 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.

For scientists 2017 is the most fruitful year.

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