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New Discovery Reveals Extreme Supermassive Black Hole at Edge of the Universe

An illustration of a black hole spewing material. Depositphotos.

Scientists have reported the discovery of a supermassive black hole that existed just 750 million years after the Big Bang.

Astronomers from the University of Texas and the University of Arizona has made an exciting discovery in the early universe. They have found a rapidly growing black hole existing in what astronomers call one of the most extreme galaxies known, dubbed COS-87259. Observations were made with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a radio observatory in Chile. The team’s findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
COS-87259 is an extreme galaxy, and it forms stars at a rate 1000 times greater than our Milky Way. It has over a billion solar masses worth of interstellar dust.

The researchers found that the black hole at the center of the galaxy is heavily obscured by cosmic dust. This causes nearly all of its light to be emitted in the mid-infrared range. This new black hole is a primordial black hole. The black hole formed approximately 750 million years after the Big Bang, making it one of the earliest supermassive black holes discovered. It is believed that black holes that have masses millions to billions of times greater than our Sun exist at the heart of nearly every galaxy. However, how these supermassive black holes formed remains a mystery for scientists.

This is mostly because we can’t directly observe Black Holes. Furthermore, as the light from these sources takes so long to reach us, we are actually looking into the past. So when astronomers observed this galaxy, they saw it as it existed approximately 750 million years after the Big Bang. This is believed to have been approximately 5% of the current age of the cosmos. The black hole generates a strong jet of material moving near-light speed through the host galaxy, making it an active galactic nucleus. This raises several questions about the abundance of very early supermassive black holes and the types of galaxies in which they typically form.

Ryan Endsley, the lead author of the paper and now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin explained, that “the results suggest that very early supermassive black holes were often heavily obscured by dust, perhaps as a consequence of the intense star formation activity in their host galaxies. Others have been predicting this for a few years now, and it’s nice to see the first direct observational evidence supporting this scenario.”

The discovery of COS-87259 and its black hole provides new insight into the formation of the very first supermassive black holes, which is of great interest to astronomers since they know so little about them. Furthermore, such discoveries take experts a step closer to a better understanding of how such massive black holes formed so early on in the lifetime of the universe and how the most massive galaxies first evolved.

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