Scientists have discovered an anomalous black hole

Muriel Hammond
December 8, 2017

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

Banados made the discovery while looking for quasars in various maps of the early universe, and then making observations with a telescope instrument in Chile known as the Folded-port InfraRed Echellette, or FIRE.

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.

The discovery of a massive black hole so early in the universe may provide key clues on conditions at that time, which allowed for huge black holes to form.

Simcoe, Bañados, and their colleagues believe the newly discovered quasar existed during this fundamental transition, just at the time when the universe was undergoing a drastic shift in its most abundant element.

An worldwide team of scientists worked on this study, which has been published in Nature, and discovered the farthest and likely the earliest black hole quasar ever. By comparison, Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, which is thought to have formed about 13.7 billion years ago, is only 4 million times the mass of the Sun.

It is the most distant black hole ever seen by scientists.

It also means that astronomers are observing an area of space-time that formed before stars or galaxies were born, the website says - a time we know very little about.

Even in the most generous and optimistic estimate of the formation of black holes, creating such a massive one in such a relatively short period of time would be impossible. "And it greatly confused us", says MIT Professor of physics Robert Simcoe.

It's the farthest black hole ever found. Approximately 400,000 years after the Big Bang, these particles cooled and merged into neutral hydrogen gas. It is surrounded by neutral hydrogen, indicating that it is from the period called the epoch of reionization, when the universe's first light sources turned on. It's part of a long-term search for the earliest quasars, which will continue. These monsters - active or not - have never been seen forming, but the most solid ideas for the process behind their formation require it to take a very, very long time.

"The number of quasars as luminous and as distant as we've just found ... there should be between 20 and 100 over the entire sky", Eduardo Bañados of Carnegie and lead author of the study says.

Astronomers have at least two gnawing questions about the first billion years of the universe, an era steeped in literal fog and figurative mystery.

Some hundreds of millions of years later, the energetic ultraviolet radiation of the first stars and the accretion disks of the first black holes reionized almost all of the hydrogen in the universe, separating the electrons from the hydrogen nuclei (protons). 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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