Farthest monster black hole found

Schematic representation of the look back into history

Quasars are the most luminous non-transient objects known, and as such they enable studies of the Universe at the earliest cosmic epochs. NASA describes quasars as "the brightest objects in the universe".

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 quasar has a bolometric luminosity of 4×10L⊙ and a black hole mass of 8×10M⊙. "It's very puzzling." Simcoe was a lead author of a paper on the discoveries, published Wednesday in the journal Nature. But when the black hole was formed, the universe was comprised of about 50 percent ionized (or energized) hydrogen and 50 percent neutral hydrogen.

"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.

The researchers have detected the most distant supermassive black hole ever observed. But this black hole arose in a universe that was only 690 million years old - not almost enough time to accumulate the mass needed to grow so big.

When the universe began, it was like a very hot soup of extremely energetic but formless particles. It's especially interesting because the bulk of the hydrogen in the quasar appears to be neutral, rather than ionized.

The astronomer who found the odd 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.

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"What we have found is that the universe was about 50/50 - it's a moment when the first galaxies emerged from their cocoons of neutral gas and started to shine their way out", said Professor Simcoe.

The quasar's distance is described by a property called its redshift - a measurement of how much the wavelength of its light is stretched by the expansion of the Universe before reaching Earth. "What was surprising here was that this one seemed to be fully formed even though the universe was very young at this period in time".

"We think of them as being something that's eternal, but really, there was a time when the universe was just dark matter", he said.

"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.

The team used two Magellan telescope instruments to observe the supermassive black hole: FIRE, which made the discovery, and FourStar, which was used for additional images. It's part of a long-term search for the earliest quasars, which will continue. It's a glimpse into what the earliest universe was like.

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