An artist’s impression of quasar J0313-1806, the most distant yet discovered, powered by the youngest known supermassive black hole. Image: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva
Astronomers have found the most distant quasar yet discovered, a powerhouse seen shining just 670 million years after the Big Bang. The quasar’s supermassive black hole, some 1.6 billion times as massive as the Sun, is the youngest on record, posing a challenge to theorists trying to explain how black holes could have grown so massive so early in cosmic history.
“Black holes created by the very first massive stars could not have grown this large in only a few hundred million years,” said Feige Wang, a NASA Hubble fellow at the University of Arizona and lead author of a paper on the discovery accepted by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
One theory about early black hole evolution holds that massive first-generation consisting mostly of hydrogen explode in supernova blasts, leaving behind already massive black holes that consume surrounding material and growing rapidly in the process. Another model suggest supermassive black holes can be formed when dense star clusters collapse, directly forming a massive black hole.
But the newly discovered quasar, known as J0313-1806, features a black hole ...