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Scientists have discovered an anomalous black hole
08 December 2017, 01:44 | Clyde Nash
Scientists find 'behemoth' black hole so big it could challenge our understanding of the universe's beginning
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.
It's not just that the black hole formed during these early times, it's that the universe was undergoing a major shift at that point.
"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. Astronomers have found a quasar - an active supermassive black hole - that is so distant, and thus so far back in time, that it challenges their models of how these gargantuan objects form.
Study lead author Eduardo of the Carnegie Institution for Science explained that "gathering all this mass in fewer than 690 million years is an enormous challenge for theories of supermassive black hole growth".
That means it took more than 13 billion years for the light from the quasar to reach us, a time when our universe was still quite young.
It is the most distant black hole ever seen by scientists.
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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.
"The universe was just not old enough to make a black hole that big". The earliest known quasar is located 13.04 billion light years from Earth and existed about 750 million years after the Big Bang. "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.
The astronomer who found the unusual black hole said that there's no way of explaining how a black hole would be able to pick up such mass, and that it might challenge out current understandings of how black holes form.
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). 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. In this approach, collapsing clouds in the early universe gave birth to overgrown baby black holes that weighed thousands or tens of thousands of solar masses.
The researchers used FIRE to determine that a large fraction of the hydrogen surrounding the quasar is neutral. From this, they inferred that stars must have begun turning on during this time, 690 million years after the Big Bang.
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