Quasar, the most ancient black hole ever discovered in space is so big, it defies explanation.
The active supermassive black hole, boasts a mass of 1.6 billion suns, and lies at the heart of a galaxy more than 13 billion light-years from Earth. The quasar, dubbed J0313-1806 by scientists, dates back to when the universe was just 670 million years old.
It’s 5 percent of the universe’s current age. This makes the giant black hole two times heavier and 20 million years older than the last record-holder for the earliest known black hole.
Discovery of the black hole challenges astronomers understanding of how black holes are formed
Researchers reported at a virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society that the discovery of a huge supermassive black hole so early in the universe’s history challenges astronomers’ understanding of how these cosmic beasts are first formed.
In addition, supermassive black holes are thought to grow from smaller black holes that swallow up matter.
Astronomer Feige Wang of the University of Arizona and colleagues calculated that even if J0313-1806’s seed formed right after the first stars in the universe, and grew as fast as possible, it would have needed a starting mass of at least 10,000 suns.
Researchers give possible scenarios that may have led to its formation
The normal way seed black holes form can only make black holes up to a few thousand times as massive as the sun-not up to the mass required to form the quasar.
A gargantuan seed black hole may have formed through the direct collapse of vast amounts of primordial hydrogen gas, or perhaps J0313-1806’s seed started out small, forming through stellar collapse, says study co-author Xiaohui Fan.
“Both possibilities exist, but neither is proven,” Fan says. “We have to look much earlier [in the universe] and look for much less massive black holes to see how these things grow.”