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Meteorologist / Science Writer
Thursday, December 7 2017, 15:51 – This should not exist, but it does. Astronomers have found a quasar, an active supermassive black hole, which is so distant, and therefore so far back in time, that it defies its models of how these colossal objects are formed. It's what happens in space!
It is believed that supermassive black holes exist at the center of almost all the galaxies in the universe. Most are asleep and, therefore, only "see" how their immense gravity affects the objects that surround them. In contrast, some, known as "active" supermassive black holes, or "quasars" (abbreviation for "quasi-stellar objects"), are very bright, emitting intense light and radiation as they consume large amounts of matter. These monsters, active or not, have never been formed, but the most solid ideas for the process behind their formation require that it take a long, long time.
A recently discovered quasar, known as J1342 + 0928, is now challenging that idea, however. This massive object, 800 million times more massive than the Sun, is now the most distant quasar ever found, and as a result, it is the first ever observed. Who knows when it was actually formed, but astronomers discovered that it existed when the universe was only 690 million years old, only 5% of the current age of the universe of 13.77 billion years.
"This is the only object we have observed since this era," study co-author Robert Simcoe, of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at MIT, said in a statement. "It has an extremely high mass, and yet the universe is so young that it should not exist, the universe was not big enough to create such a big black hole, it's very disconcerting."
The new supermassive black hole J1342 + 0928 (yellow star), which resides in a mostly neutral universe at the edge of the cosmic dawn, is more distant than any other found to date ( yellow dots). Credit: Jinyi Yang, University of Arizona; Reidar Hahn, Fermilab; M. Newhouse NOAO / AURA / NSF
Being close when the universe was so young puts this supermassive black hole on the cusp of when the universe emerged from its "dark age" – from the time before the formation of the first stars, when the light began to shine throughout the cosmos. Then, this object was seen right on the edge of what we can see looking back in time and space.
"Bringing all this mass together in less than 690 million years is a huge challenge for" The theories of the supermassive growth of the black hole, "said Eduardo Bañados, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science who led the discovery, a press release on Wednesday
The three main ideas of how supermassive black holes are formed are: 1) the collapse of huge clouds of gas, which also form the galaxy around the black hole, 2) black holes stellar (which are formed due to the collapse of massive stars) that accumulate even more matter for millions of years, or 3) due to the merger of multiple black holes.
With J1342 + 0928 being so big at such a young age , this offers a puzzle for astronomers.In comparison, Sagittarius A *, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way, which is believed to have formed about 13,700 million ago It is only 4 million times the mass of the Sun. The team thinks that, perhaps, conditions in the early universe allowed the formation of massive black holes, which started 100,000 times more massive than the Sun and then grew from there. .
The team's findings are now published in journal Nature .
"This is a very exciting discovery, found by traversing the new generation of wide-area sensitive studies that astronomers are conducting using NASA's Wide-field infrared field explorer in orbit and terrestrial telescopes in Chile and Hawaii, "Daniel Stern, a member of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory team, said in a statement. "With the construction of several next generation facilities, even more sensitive, we can expect many exciting discoveries at the beginning of the universe in the coming years."
Sources: Carnegie Institution for Science | MIT
Look below: see two neutron stars fuse together to form a black hole