Mysterious monster of a black hole puzzles scientists

Mysterious monster of a black hole puzzles scientists

The researchers have detected the most distant supermassive black hole ever observed.

Energy released at this time caused the universe to become "reionized"-the neutral hydrogen became excited and ionized, allowing photons to move through space and allowing the universe to become transparent". It was taking shape just as the universe was undergoing a fundamental switch - one that saw the universe turn from being a misty cloud of nitrogen gas into a space where the very first stars were switch on. "Gathering all this mass in fewer than 690 million years is an enormous challenge for theories of supermassive black hole growth".

Quasars are the most luminous non-transient objects known, and as such they enable studies of the Universe at the earliest cosmic epochs.

Header image: by Robin Dienel, courtesey of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

After analyzing the quasar, the scientists found a lot of the hydrogen surrounding it is neutral, which suggests that the supermassive black hole formed during the reionization phase after the Big Bang.

When the universe began, it was like a very hot soup of extremely energetic but formless particles. Eventually gravity condensed matter and the first few stars and galaxies were born.

Further observations of the quasar will provide researchers with even more constraints on how black holes in the early universe can form-giving a better insight into what happened just after the Big Bang.

"This adds to our understanding of our universe at large because we've identified that moment of time when the universe is in the middle of this very rapid transition from neutral to ionized", said Professor Simcoe. The quasar's light traveled some 13 billion light-years before reaching the Magellan Telescopes.

Prior to this discovery, the record-holder for the furthest known quasar existed when the Universe was about 800 million years old.

"This is a very exciting discovery, found by scouring the new generation of wide-area, sensitive surveys astronomers are conducting using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer in orbit and ground-based telescopes in Chile and Hawaii", said Daniel Stern of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Over to NASA, whose Daniel Stern of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena stoked anticipation: "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". This means that the early universe likely was conducive to the quick formation of supermassive black holes; our current universe isn't, and black holes are generally much smaller.

"This important discovery - together with the detection of distant galaxies - is elucidating the conditions of the Universe during the reionisation epoch".

This relic from the early Universe is busily devouring material at the centre of a galaxy - marking it out as a so-called quasar.

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