A giant black hole, as massive as 12 billion suns, has been found by astronomers and seems to be growing far too fast.
The black hole is not the biggest that is known, but is far bigger than scientist would expect to be at its age. It got to its huge size 875 million years after the big bang – which scientists wouldn’t expect to happen, since black holes grow as they age and eat other gas and stars that surround them.
Scientists can only see it at that age – 12.8 billion years ago, and 6 per cent of the age of the current universe – because it is so far away. They also can’t look at it directly, because the power of its gravity sucks everything including light into it – but the team that found it saw it by spotting a quasar, an object that gets lit up as it’s heading into the black hole. In a paper reporting their finding, published in Nature and reported in National Geographic, the scientists behind the study say that the finding could change our understanding of how black holes form. It is thought that black holes begin when the first stars collapsed, about 100 million years after the big bang, and that they swelled after that.
Where to explore in the solar system
Where to explore in the solar system
1/10 Mars - Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the Solar System. At 22km high Olympus Mons is nearly three times as high as Mt Everest
2/10 Mars - Mount Sharp
Mount Sharp is the current focus point of the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover. Sitting at the forefront of Martian research this location will hopefully unlock the secrets of Mars’s past.
3/10 Ida and Dactyl
Nestled deep within the asteroid belt is the asteroid 243 Ida. During a fly by of the Galileo space probe it was discovered that Ida had a companion. Orbiting around Ida was a tiny moon that was named Dactyl.
4/10 Jupiter - The Red Spot
Getting tired of leisurely cruises through the Caribbean? Why not float a dirigible through one of the oldest known storms in the Solar System. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is large enough to contain three Earths and has been present for over 300 years.
5/10 Moon - Sea of Tranquility
As the landing site of the first ever humans to set foot on the Moon who wouldn’t want to walk in the footsteps on Neil Armstrong on the Sea of Tranquility?
6/10 Europa - Underwater seas
Europa’s underwater seas are one of the strongest candidates for potential life outside Earth. Scientists are waiting the day we can probe their icy depths.
7/10 Titan - Methane Lakes
Saturn’s Moon Titan is home to a nice thick atmosphere. Similar to the Earth it supports a full weather cycle. Unlike the Earth, rather than using water, Titan’s cycle is based on methane, often found in gas cookers here on Earth.
8/10 Mimas, the Death Moon
What better location for a holiday snap. The large Herschel crater on Mimas gives this moon an appearance of a certain dark lords ultimate weapon. When viewed from the right angle it appears that the Death Star is in orbit around Saturn.
The thick clouds of Venus make it an extremely mysterious place. It also has some of the most extreme weather we can find. Runaway greenhouse gases have shrouded the planet in a thick layer of cloud, heating it to nearly 600°C. It is also home to sulphuric acid rain and crushing atmospheric pressure. Make sure you pack a sturdy umbrella!
10/10 Oceans of Earth
One of the most unexplored places in the Solar System is our own oceans. 70% of the Earth is covered in ocean and as of yet we have only explored around 10% of them. With so much water to explore who knows what we may find lurking in the depths.
But the newly-found black hole is too big to have happened that way, according to Bram Venemans of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, who writes a commentary on the new study.
Other possibilities include a merging of galaxies, bringing two different black holes together. But that depends on the two having the same mass, or they would have cast each other aside rather than merging.
Instead, it’s possible that the first stars that helped create those black holes were huge – as much as a million suns packed into one star. If they collapsed early on, they could have “they could jump-start the formation of very large black holes,” said Loeb.
While that would explain the surprising formulation of the newly-discovered black hole, it depends on such huge stars ever existing. Scientists hope that they can find out whether they did when they send the new James Webb Space Telescope into orbit in 2018Reuse content