Unexpected discovery: Supermassive black hole the most distant ever detected

Astronomers Find the Earliest Supermassive Black Hole Ever Discovered

At the center of a distant galaxy, scientists have found the oldest black hole ever discovered, and it's so freakish it's posing some perplexing questions. The black hole formed only 690 million years after the Big Bang - aka, when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age, NPR writes.

Quasars are actually the brightest and most-distant known celestial objects which are crucial to understanding the early universe, said study co-author Bran 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.

The astronomers reportedly plan to keep looking for more distant quasars to understand what was happening in the universe at the time. During its early stage, the universe went through what is sometimes called the Dark Age - not a metaphor, as it is for the human period, but a truly a dark age as there was no light. Roughly 400,000 years after the original explosion, a lot of high energy particles slowed down and cooled down to become neutral hydrogen gas. That means that the black hole quasar was formed exactly during that reionization phase after the Big Bang event. Quasar light can be decoded to yield information about the hydrogen atoms the light has encountered along its billion-light-year-journey.

Unfortunately, the question remains how this black hole formed when it did.

Adding to the black hole's intrigue is the environment in which it formed: The scientists have deduced that the black hole took shape just as the universe was undergoing a fundamental shift, from an opaque environment dominated by neutral hydrogen to one in which the first stars started to blink on. "But it's pretty hard to get that kind of a mass that early in the universe".

The black hole doesn't match up with existing formation models based on what occurred following the Big Bang.

"It's a moment when the first galaxies emerged from their cocoons of neutral gas and started to shine their way out", Simcoe said.

"In some sense, what we've done is determine with a high degree of accuracy when the first stars in the universe turned on", he said. She was very interested in scientists, as it refers to the early period after origination of the Universe. This classifies it as a quasar, and it's largely what allowed astronomers to discover it. Eventually, gravity condensed matter into the first stars and galaxies, which in turn produced light in the form of photons. "They're rare, but they're very much there, and we need to figure out how they form", said Priyamvada Natarajan, an astrophysicist at Yale University who was not part of the research team. That indicated to researchers that the stars were just beginning to glow, he said.

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