Astronomers Found The Most Distant Supermassive Black Hole Ever Seen

Dec 08, 2017, 01:33
Astronomers Found The Most Distant Supermassive Black Hole Ever Seen

The old and farthest black hole ever witnessed is a celestial brute 800 million times more extensive than the sun which is providing scientists with some wonders about the nature of the universe. The quasar's light discovered by the researchers dates back to approximately 690 million years after the Big Bang that formed the universe when the cosmos was only 5% of its present age.

Scientists says our current understanding suggests that for a black hole of this magnitude to exist at such an early stage in the universe is theoretically impossible, the website reports.

"This is the only object we have observed from this era", study co-author Robert Simcoe, from MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, said in a statement. "But it's pretty hard to get that kind of a mass that early in the universe".

Then gravity began to squash down matter into the first stars and galaxies, then creating light in the form of photons. More and more stars were forming, eventually generating enough radiation to flip hydrogen from neutral (in which electrons are bound to the nucleus) to ionized (in which electrons are freer to interact). This shift from neutral to ionized hydrogen represented a fundamental change in the universe that has persisted to this day.

Several ground-based observatories, including the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope on Maunakea, made the initial discovery of the black hole, while the 8-meter Gemini telescope followed up by measuring the mass with its near-infrared spectrograph.

"It's a moment when the first galaxies emerged from their cocoons of neutral gas and started to shine their way out", Simcoe said. As more stars formed from the remains of first-generation stars, they became "polluted" with heavier elements and in turn produce even heavier elements when they explode in supernovae. The other lead authors are from the Carnegie Institution for Science, in Pasadena, California. For instance, at nearly a billion solar masses, the quasar's central black hole is comparatively massive. FIRE is a spectrometer that classifies objects based on their infrared spectra. "The universe is enormous and searching for these very rare objects is like looking for the needle in the haystack". The higher an object's redshift, the further away it is, both in space and time.

It's a truly gargantuan black hole, some 800 million times the mass of our sun. Analysis of this object reveals that reionization, the process that defogged the universe like a hair dryer on a steamy bathroom mirror, was about half complete at that time. Immediately following the Big Bang, the universe resembled a cosmic soup of hot, extremely energetic particles. During its early stage, the universe went through what is sometimes called the Dark Age - not a metaphor, as it is for the human period, but a truly a dark age as there was no light. It's part of a long-term search for the earliest quasars, which will still proclaim. "It's a dream come true that all of these data are coming along", said Avi Loeb, the chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University. Yet this scenario requires exceptional conditions that would have allowed gas clouds to condense all together into a single object instead of splintering into many stars, as is typically the case.

Supermassive black holes are thought to exist at the centre of almost every galaxy in the universe. Black holes grow when cosmic matter falls into them.

For scientists 2017 is the most fruitful year.

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