Supermassive Black Hole Is Too Big To Exist

Image Robin Dienel courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science

Stars and galaxies were just beginning to form at this point, so the supermassive black hole is a memento from a period of transition within the universe.

The light that was measured from the exceedingly distant quasar has been a long time in coming: approximately 13 billion years for it to reach humanity's instruments on Earth, according to NASA.

Astronomers have found the monster black hole, almost as old as the universe itself, chewing through clouds.

Another study author, Robert Simcoe of MIT, said "this is the only object we have observed from this era".

The new black hole's mass, calculated after more observations, adds to an existing problem. 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. This shift from neutral to ionized hydrogen represented a fundamental change in the universe that has persisted to this day.

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It's the farthest black hole ever found. "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. He was joined by another researcher from MIT and researchers from several other institutions. "Gathering all this mass in fewer than 690 million years is an enormous challenge for theories of supermassive black hole growth", says Eduardo Bañados from the Carnegie Institute for Science, who led the team of astronomers that made the discovery.

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

Astronomers started by studying the quasar's emission spectrum, from which they could figure out how fast the system is moving away from us.

Space.com has a look at a supermassive black hole (a black hole millions of times larger than the sun) that's extremely, extremely old.

The black hole is positioned at the center of a quasar, the massive, highly luminous accretion disks found at the center of many galaxies.

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The newly identified quasar appears to inhabit a pivotal moment in the universe's history. After the energetic particles from the Big Bang cooled, they formed neutral hydrogen. Once the universe became reionzed, photons could travel freely throughout space, thus the universe became transparent to light.

The researchers used FIRE to determine that a large fraction of the hydrogen surrounding the quasar is neutral. And they measure their size by looking at the brightness of the quasar. After hundreds of millions of years, young stars or quasars emitted enough light to strip the electrons back off these atoms, dissipating the cosmic fog like mist at dawn.

"This is a very exciting discovery", he said. When you think of a black hole, you're likely thinking of a stellar black hole, which forms when a star explodes in a spectacular supernova, and the remaining core collapses under the weight of its own gravity.

"If you start with a seed like a big star, and let it grow at the maximum possible rate, and start at the moment of the Big Bang, you could never make something with 800 million solar masses - it's unrealistic", Simcoe says.

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