Massive Black Hole Quasar Is The Farthest Ever Discovered

Dec 08, 2017, 01:40
Massive Black Hole Quasar Is The Farthest Ever Discovered

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

Bañados and colleagues explored another possibility: If you start at the new black hole's current mass and rewind the tape, sucking away matter at the Eddington rate until you approach the Big Bang, you see it must have initially formed as an object heavier than 1,000 times the mass of the sun.

The mass of the black hole is 800 million times that of the sun, the university said, and it sits in the center of a galactic object called a quasar.

"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. What's extraordinary about this black hole, aside from its massive size, is that its discovery will help scientists comprehend the processes of their growth during the time the universe was still forming.

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The black hole is even more puzzling because of what was happening in the universe at that time.

Geballe said the research team led by Eduardo Banados, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science, initially tried to measure the black hole's mass with a telescope in Arizona, but atmospheric conditions proved too hard. 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.

"This discovery opens up an exciting new window to understand the early universe", he said in an email from Pasadena, California.

The researchers have detected the most distant supermassive black hole ever observed. Its black hole was even larger at 2 billion solar masses.

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In addition, he says, it looks like this black hole formed in a cosmic environment that was only just starting to be affected by light from the first stars. It took another 13 billion years to reach the earth, the researchers found.

Now the discovery of a supermassive black hole smack in the middle of this period is helping astronomers resolve both questions. "But it's pretty hard to get that kind of a mass that early in the universe". And how did those behemoth black holes grow so big in so little time?

"Something is causing gas within the quasar to move around at very high speed, and the only phenomenon we know that achieves such speeds is orbit around a supermassive black hole", Simcoe says. Approximately 400,000 years after the Big Bang, these particles cooled and merged into neutral hydrogen gas. Eventually, gravity condensed matter into the first stars and galaxies, which in turn produced light in the form of photons.

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.

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But most galaxies we've seen from that era are very, very small.