Science

Supermassive Black Hole Is Too Big To Exist

Supermassive Black Hole Is Too Big To Exist

That's how astronomers detect black holes.

A Carnegie Institution of Science-led team has found one of the most elusive objects in the universe: a fully formed galaxy just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

Quasars are powered by supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies - in this case, a black hole with nearly a billion times the mass of the Sun. 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. It also did this extremely fast, at least by the standards of the universe, which scientists have estimated is 13.8 billion years old. The universe was just not old enough to make a black hole that big.

Researchers say they have detected a mysterious supermassive black hole that technically should not exist - and, while studying it, have discovered when the stars first lit up the sky. This shift from neutral to ionized hydrogen represented a fundamental change in the universe that has persisted to this day.

It's the farthest black hole ever found. "With several next-generation, even-more-sensitive facilities now being built, we can expect many exciting discoveries in the very early universe in the coming years". "This is the most accurate measurement of that time, and a real indication of when the first stars turned on". These findings are published today in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. The other lead authors are from the Carnegie Institution for Science, in Pasadena, California. This is the most distant quasar-a supermassive black hole surrounded by a disk of gas-ever identified and it will help astronomers to better understand exactly how black holes grew when the universe was first forming.

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The mass of this black hole is some 800 million times that of our sun, in contrast to the 4-million-mass black hole thought to lie at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. FIRE is a spectrometer that classifies objects based on their infrared spectra.

Since the universe is constantly expanding, distant objects are moving away from us, which stretches out the wavelength of the light they emit. Quasar light can be decoded to yield information about the hydrogen atoms the light has encountered along its billion-light-year-journey.

Additionally, the size of the black hole is a puzzle in itself: Its mass is 800 million times greater than our sun's.

The scientists spotted the supermassive black hole within a quasar, the bright center of a galaxy that consists of both one of these enormous black holes as well as a disk of material that orbits the black hole. About 400,000 years after the initial explosion, the primordial soup of high energy particles cooled down to become a neutral hydrogen gas. "Models of galaxy evolution will need to be able to explain how a galaxy could form the stars needed to produce the observed amounts of dust and heavier chemical elements in such a comparatively short time", Venemans said. Once the universe became reionized, photons could travel freely throughout space, thus the universe became transparent to light.

The Bañados quasar is especially interesting, because it is from the time known as the epoch of reionization, when the universe emerged from its dark ages. These black holes fueled giant, extremely bright quasars.


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