The oldest ever black hole has been observed, dating all the way back to the dawn of the universe, a new study has revealed.
Astronomers have spotted a 13-billion-year-old black hole, from 400 million years after the big bang, which appears to be ‘eating’ its host galaxy to death.
This surprisingly massive black hole – a few million times the mass of our Sun – has challenged scientists’ assumptions on how black holes form and grow as it should not be that big so early on in the universe.
If it grew in an expected way, this newly detected black hole would take about a billion years to grow to its observed size but the universe was not yet a billion years old when this black hole was detected.
Astronomers had presumed that supermassive black holes grew to their current size over billions of years, but the size of this new find suggests that they might be ‘born big’ or they can eat matter at a rate that’s five times higher than had been thought possible.
Professor Roberto Maiolino said: “It’s very early in the universe to see a black hole this massive, so we’ve got to consider other ways they might form.
“Very early galaxies were extremely gas-rich, so they would have been like a buffet for black holes.”
And speaking of discoveries using the Webb Space Telescope, he added: “It’s a new era: the giant leap in sensitivity, especially in the infrared, is like upgrading from Galileo’s telescope to a modern telescope overnight.
“Before Webb came online, I thought maybe the universe isn’t so interesting when you go beyond what we could see with the Hubble Space Telescope.
“But that hasn’t been the case at all: the universe has been quite generous in what it’s showing us, and this is just the beginning.”
The team of astronomers detected this black hole as it could be seen glowing, radiating energy in the ultraviolet range.
Similar to all other black holes it is devouring material from its host galaxy to fuel its growth, but at much faster rates.
The host galaxy, called GN-z11, is about one hundred times smaller than the Milky Way and this black hole feasting on it is likely harming its development.
The team hope that with further research and telescope observations they will be able to untangle the ways in which black holes might form.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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