Friday, 15 December, 2017

Colossal distant black hole holds surprises about early universe

This illustration provided by the Carnegie Institution for Science shows the most-distant supermassive black hole ever discovered which is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. On Wednesday Dec. 6 2017 a team led by the Carn Astronomers Find the Earliest Supermassive Black Hole Ever Discovered
Frank Williams | 07 December, 2017, 09:25

"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.

"This adds to our understanding of our universe at large because we've identified that moment of time when the universe is in the middle of this very rapid transition from neutral to ionized", Simcoe says.

In addition, he says, it looks like this black hole formed in a cosmic environment that was only just starting to be affected by light from the first stars. 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. Using the black hole, scientists can now predict when stars began lighting up the universe within an accuracy of about 1 to 2 percent.

Artist's conception of the discovery of the most-distant quasar known.

"This is the only object we have observed from this era", says Robert Simcoe, the Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics in MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.

Boffins believe that the central mass of the black hole existed when our universe was only 5% of its current age. The universe was just not old enough to make a black hole that big. This supermassive black hole, which has a mass 800 million times greater than the sun, formed when the universe was only 690 million years old.

This year's YouTube Rewind video is quite the ride
The man in the mask sings "Until We Will Become Dust", which starts out as a ballad and eventually breaks into a rap. As of this year, YouTube is the most popular streaming service in the world, with over 1 billion users worldwide .

But there's a problem with the finding: the black hole appears to be far too big for its age.

The black hole is positioned at the center of a quasar, the massive, highly luminous accretion disks found at the center of many galaxies. Quasar light can be decoded to yield information about the hydrogen atoms the light has encountered along its billion-light-year-journey. It's a glimpse into what the earliest universe was like.

This also happened right around a major moment in the universe, called the reionization, essentially where hydrogen stopped messing around and became the reactive element we know and love today.

"The moment when the first stars turned on is when our universe filled with light", says Simcoe, who explains that when this light leaked out of the first galaxies, it interacted with the surrounding matter and changed its properties. These can not, in theory, have formed from the collapse of massive stars because the timescales don't match-there would not have been enough time for a start to be born, live and die for it to exist.

Though cosmologists estimate the early universe hosted between 20 and 100 quasars, until now, only one had been found at such a dramatic distance. It dates back to 690 million years after the Big Bang.

There is one large mystery that remains to be solved: How did a black hole of such massive proportions form so early in the universe's history? But this newly-discovered black hole is more than 200 million lightyears further away - and hence, 200 million years older. After the energetic particles from the Big Bang cooled, they formed neutral hydrogen.

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