Scientists have managed to uncover a lone relic from the early development of our universe: a supermassive black hole. Roughly 800 million times the mass of our sun, this matter-gobbling beast is also the further known object of its kind.
Writing in Nature, NASA’s Daniel Stern (no, not that Daniel Stern) stated that “this black hole grew far larger than we expected in only 690 million years after the Big Bang, which challenges our theories about how black holes form.” For the black hole to become so large at such an early stage in the universe, the team at NASA believe special condition must have arisen to allow such rapid growth. As to what these conditions were though is anyone’s guess.
Even more interesting is that this newly discovered supermassive black hole was a quasar. Namely, it sat at the center of a galaxy where a disc of gas slowly orbited its perimeter. As matter eventually falls into the black hole, powerful burst of electromagnetic radiation is released, allowing it to be easily detected in the radio, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray wavelengths. However, this particular supermassive black hole/quasar only existed when the universe was at 5 percent of its current age, meaning it may have swallowed up a large portion of our early universe.
Scientists believe that there currently exists roughly 20 to 100 quasars that are as bright and distant as this newly found quasar. However, it will take next-generation telescopes to discover these distant monsters. Lucky for us though, the facilities to host these telescopes are currently under construction.