Looking at this monster black hole means you are looking at the dawn of creation. Its light takes 13 billion years to reach Earth.
Researchers have discovered the oldest supermassive black hole ever found. It formed just 690 million years after the Big Bang, meaning the universe was just 5% of its current age.
This was a time when the cosmos was beginning to emerge from a dark period known as dark ages. Shortly after, the first stars appeared.
However, this supermassive black hole is roughly 800 million times the mass of the sun.
Astronomers have discovered the most distant supermassive black hole with ground-based telescopes.
The newfound object is a quasar, named ULAS J1342+0928. Astronomers can’t really see the black hole. But a flood of light around the black hole is visible. That light can outshine an entire galaxy.
This relic from the early Universe is busily devouring material at the center of a galaxy.
Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe. So, at 13 billion years away from Earth, this quasar is the farthest one ever discovered.
“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.
The quasar’s distance is described by a property called a redshift. Redshift is a concept for astronomers to understand when light or other electromagnetic radiation from an object is increased in wavelength.
The newly discovered black hole has a redshift of 7.54. Basically, the higher the redshift, the greater the distance. It also means astronomers are looking farther back in time.
But what can we learn from this?
Researchers explained how this monstrous black hole can help them discover a number of cosmic mysteries. One of them might help astronomers learn how black holes could have reached colossal sizes quickly after the Big Bang. They could also learn how the universe got cleared of the gloomy fog that once filled the entire space.
However, finding these object in the vastness of the universe is really hard.
“It’s like finding the needle in a haystack,” said Eduardo Bañados, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science who led the international research team. Their discovery is described in a study published in Nature.
Black holes are places in space where gravity is so strong that, as we know, not even light can escape. They basically devour anything that gets near it. And the more material a black hole consumes, the bigger it becomes.
Supermassive black holes are found lurking in the heart of almost every galaxy if not all of them.
Quasars are composed of a supermassive black hole surrounded by an orbiting accretion disk of gas. So, as gas in the accretion disk falls toward the black hole, it releases energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation. Thus, releasing one of the brightest light in the universe.
Thumbnail image: An artist’s illustration of a quasar. Some of the brightest objects in the Universe. Credit: Robin Dienel