According to a report published by Nature Journal, scientists from China have discovered a black hole that is 2,400 times larger than any black hole of its approximate age that has been previously discovered.
In their report, researchers from China’s Peking University in collaboration with the University of Arizona claimed that SDSS J010013.02, the name given to the black hole, was approximately six times larger than any other black hole that scientists have observed to date.
“The existence of such black holes when the Universe was less than one billion years old presents substantial challenges to theories of the formation and growth of black holes and the co-evolution of black holes and galaxies,” stated the reseachers.
Lead researcher Xue-Bing Wu and his team first spotted the black hole using a powerful telescope in Yunnan, China as well as additional telescopes around the world to verify their findings.
Once discovered, scientists quickly recognized that SDSS could be pivotal in understanding black holes with SDSS being a bridge between the super massive black holes which originated shortly after the big bang and black holes that formed as the universe began to take shape about 500 to 1000 million years later.
“Astronomers have been looking very hard for these medium-sized black holes,” the study’s co-author Tim Roberts, a Professor at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, said in a press release. “There have been hints that they exist, but the IMBHs have been acting like a long-lost relative that isn’t interested in being found.”
“We found SDSS has traits similar to both stellar-mass black holes and super massive black holes,” said another co-author Andrei Lobanov from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany. “In other words, this object helps tie the whole black hole family together.”
As to why the black hole reached such a larger size, The University of Arizona in a press release stated that the SDSS may have powered “the brightest quasar of the early universe.” According to NASA, quasars are, “The brilliant beacons of light that are powered by black holes feasting on captured material, and in the process, heating some of the matter to millions of degrees.”
Touching on the role of the quasar in understanding SDSS, lead researcher Wu commented in the article that, “This quasar is very unique … Just like the brightest lighthouse in the distant universe, its glowing light will help us to probe more about the early Universe”.
Scientist Fuyun Bian from the Australian National University, commented in a press release that light from a quasar was originally thought to stunt the growth of black holes as the quasar pushed material behind it.
Despite what scientists assumed, according to Bian, “This black hole at the centre of the quasar gained enormous mass in a short period of time”.
Chris Willott, another scientist involved in studying SDSS, told Nature Journal that it is possible that this particular black hole formed from the collapse of a gas cloud instead of a particularly large star.
“We are still very uncertain as to the modes of black-hole formation and growth in the early Universe,” he said in a press release.
Astronomer Bram Venemans, in another published article in Nature Journal, commented that, “Theoretically, it is not implausible to find a black hole of more than 10 billion solar masses within one billion years after the Big Bang. But it is still surprising to uncover such a massive black hole in the early Universe”.