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Earliest Black Hole Gives Rare Glimpse of Ancient Universe

07 December 2017

The gravity is so intense that the matter can't escape, which in turn makes its gravitational pull that much stronger. This newfound giant black hole, which formed just 690 million years after the Big Bang, could one day help shed light on a number of cosmic mysteries, such as how black holes could have reached gargantuan sizes quickly after the Big Bang and how the universe got cleared of the murky fog that once filled the entire cosmos, the researchers said in the new study. Because of how the universe expands, this value directly relates to how distant the quasar is from us, which the scientists calculated to be 13 billion light years.

"With several next-generation, even-more-sensitive facilities now being built, we can expect many exciting discoveries in the very early universe in the coming years", Daniel Stern of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, also a coauthor on the paper, said in another statement.

"It's very puzzling", Robert Simcoe from Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, who was a coauthor on the research, said in a statement Wednesday. It also did this extremely fast, at least by the standards of the universe, which scientists have estimated is 13.8 billion years old. As the gas falls into the black hole, it speeds up, heats up and brightens, which allows astronomers to see them from across the universe.

Scientists can now estimate when stars first began to light up the cosmic universe, thanks to the discovery of a supermassive black hole, NPR reports. "This is the most accurate measurement of that time, and a real indication of when the first stars turned on". Findings will be published in the journal Nature. Carnegie Institution for Science.

"Gathering all this mass in fewer than 690 million years is an enormous challenge for theories of supermassive black hole growth", Eduardo Bañados, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution for Science, said in a news release.

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.

The unexpected discovery was based on data gathered from observatories around the world. That means the light shifts towards the red end of the spectrum, and the higher an object's redshift, the further away it is.

The team found the quasar as part of a project to seek out the most distant supermassive black holes in the universe.

The newly identified quasar appears to inhabit a pivotal moment in the universe's history.

Bram Venemans says: "Models of galaxy evolution will need to be able to explain how a galaxy could form the stars needed to produce the observed amounts of dust and heavier chemical elements in such a comparatively short time". Afterwards, the light moves through the hydrogen fairly freely.

Quasar J1342+0928 comes from a time known as the dark ages, where a spontaneous eruption was believed to create the Big Bang.

The researchers used FIRE to determine that a large fraction of the hydrogen surrounding the quasar is neutral.

Earliest Black Hole Gives Rare Glimpse of Ancient Universe