The Oldest Black Hole Ever Discovered Is Defying All Our Expectations

Thursday, 07 December 2017 - 11:06AM
Black Holes
Thursday, 07 December 2017 - 11:06AM
The Oldest Black Hole Ever Discovered Is Defying All Our Expectations
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Image credit: NASA
At the center of a distant galaxy, scientists have found the oldest black hole ever discovered, and it's so bizarre it's posing some perplexing questions. 
One of the largest black holes ever found, it's 800 million times the mass of our Sun, which has surprised those who made the discovery, as this supermassive black hole became a monster in only 690 million years following the Big Bang. 

Researchers made the discovery by using "redshift," which measures how the light wavelengths of a target are stretched by the universe's expansion.

A high redshift indicates great distance, and as light takes its sweet time getting to Earth from elsewhere in space (at 186,000 miles per second), science can use this to gauge how far back in time we're seeing something. 

In this case, the researchers are using a quasar in the host galaxy to determine that the light reaching us now took over 13 billion years to get here. 
That means it took more than 13 billion years for the light from the quasar to reach us, a time when our universe was still quite young.

NASA says that this discovery could provide fundamental facts about those early days of the universe.

"Quasars are among the brightest and most distant known celestial objects and are crucial to understanding the early universe," said Bram Venemans, co-author of the study and researcher for the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy.

Unfortunately, the question remains how this black hole formed when it did.

"The existence of supermassive black holes in the early universe poses crucial questions on their formation and growth processes," said researcher and Carnegie-Princeton fellow Eduardo Banados.

The black hole doesn't match up with existing formation models based on what occurred following the Big Bang.

According to the theory, the first 400,000 years were a period of inflation, in which particles cooled and gelled into neutral hydrogen gas-a dark time before stars and starlight.

Once matter came together via gravity to form galaxies and stars, the energy released by these early objects ionized the neutral hydrogen, a reaction that allowed photons to travel and make space a transparent space in which we can look in, around and back into time.
However, much of the hydrogen surrounding the discovered quasar is neutral, which means it's the only example of the universe we can see of the times before the ionization that, well, lets us see it.
In other words, we may be witnessing something that predates what we thought we could possibly see. 

Black Holes
The Oldest Black Hole Ever Discovered Is Defying All Our Expectations