Rare black hole 1 billion times the mass of the sun could upend our understanding of galaxy formation
The discovery of a hidden primordial black hole, which formed just 750 million years after the Big Bang, suggests that it may be the 'tip of the iceberg' of the cosmic monsters hiding in the early universe.
A rare supermassive black hole found hiding at the dawn of the universe could indicate that there were thousands more of the ravenous monsters stalking the early cosmos than scientists thought — and astronomers aren't sure why.
The primordial black hole is around 1 billion times the mass of our sun and was found at the center of the galaxy COS-87259. The ancient galaxy formed just 750 million years after the Big Bang and was spotted by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a radio observatory in Chile, in a tiny patch of sky less than 10 times the size of the full moon.
Obscured beneath a cloak of turbulent stardust, the rapidly growing black hole was seen consuming part of its accretion disc of orbiting matter while spewing the leftovers out in a jet traveling close to the speed of light. The monster black hole appears to be at a rare intermediate stage of growth, somewhere between a dusty, star-forming galaxy and an enormous, brightly glowing black hole called a quasar.
And the cosmic behemoth could be just one of thousands of inexplicably large black holes lurking beneath the cloud cover of the early universe, the researchers suggest. They published their discovery Feb. 24 in the journal Monthly Notices of The Royal Astronomical Society.
Related: 'Runaway' black hole the size of 20 million suns found speeding through space with a trail of newborn stars behind it
"Frankly, explaining the existence of around 15 very early luminous quasars [from the same time period as COS-87259] was a big challenge for extragalactic astronomy given how short of a time there is to grow such a massive black hole since the Big Bang," lead study author Ryan Endsley, an astronomer at the University of Texas, Austin, told Live Science. "If very early billion-solar-mass black holes are thousands of times more common than we originally thought (as implied by our discovery, unless you assume we were incredibly lucky) this just exacerbates the problem further."
A supermassive mystery
Black holes are born from the collapse of giant stars and grow by ceaselessly gorging on gas, dust, stars and other other black holes in the star-forming galaxies that contain them. If they grow large enough, friction causes the material spiraling into the black holes' maws to heat up, and they transform into quasars — shedding their gaseous cocoons with blasts of light up to a trillion times more luminous than the brightest stars.
Because light travels at a fixed speed through the vacuum of space, the deeper scientists look into the universe, the more remote light they intercept and the further back in time they see. Past simulations of the "cosmic dawn" — the epoch encompassing the first billion years of the universe — have suggested that billowing clouds of cold gas may have coalesced into giant stars that were doomed to rapidly collapse, creating black holes. As the universe grew, those first black holes may have quickly merged with others to seed even bigger supermassive black holes throughout the cosmos.
But how these chaotic conditions led to the creation of so many supermassive black holes is a mystery; one that is deepened by the possibility that the beasts could have numbered in their thousands when the universe had reached only 5% of its current age. One review paper has suggested that big, bright quasars are the easiest black holes to spot, so they are likely only the "tip of the iceberg" of the monsters hiding in the young cosmos.
The answer to this conundrum could point to a hole in our understanding of galaxy formation in the early universe. On Feb 22., another group of astronomers analyzing data from the The James Webb Space Telescope discovered a group of six gargantuan galaxies — aged between 500 to 700 million years after the Big Bang — that were so massive they were in tension with 99% of cosmological models.
A possible explanation may lie in the quantity and frenzied activity of the dense "starburst" clouds where the earliest black holes spawned. For instance, in April 2022, the discovery of another rapidly growing, transitioning black hole called GNz7q in a starburst galaxy the same age as COS-87259 showed that the galaxy was serving up freshly baked stars 1,600 times faster than the Milky Way does today. COS-87259 cooks at a slightly slower rate of 1,000 times the present Milky Way, yet its black hole is 20 times as massive and bright as GNz7q.
"The discovery of both COS-87259 and GNz7q within the past year was super surprising and really pushes us to ask how we can make sense of this from the standpoint of understanding very early supermassive black hole growth," Endsley said.
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Ben Turner is a U.K. based staff writer at Live Science. He covers physics and astronomy, among other topics like tech and climate change. He graduated from University College London with a degree in particle physics before training as a journalist. When he's not writing, Ben enjoys reading literature, playing the guitar and embarrassing himself with chess.
By Tom Metcalfe
By Briley Lewis
By Harry Baker
Consider this train of thought.
If we say that the cosmos has always been constant, we have this problem. WHERE DID THE FIRST STAR COME FROM? We keep going back to infinity past, and we can never find a beginning. A common explanation is the 'Big Bang'. According to this, there was an explosion of NOTHING (or an infinite point that contained all matter), which randomly turned into EVERYTHING. This raises several questions.
1. Where did the thing that exploded come from?
2. What caused it to go BANG?
3. How did the bang form orderly things? Never, in all of human observation, has an explosion produced order out of randomness.
Each of these questions conflict dramatically with the theory that the cosmos has always been constant from the time it was nothing.
If we say the cosmos is not constant, we have several other problems.
1. How do all the constant things remain constant? Orbits, gravity, stars reacting in a controlled manner, etc.
2. If the universe is not constant, ALL of evolution, and every evolutionary concept is utterly void. The observations of the last 100 years, (even if we generously say the last 1,000) is just a speck on the billions of years idea. To put this in perspective, 1,000 years of observation out of 10 billion years, is the equivalent of 19.03 seconds out of one year. Could we take a 19 second weather sample at a certain city and then declare the weather from the previous year? Obviously, no. The sample data is simply not comprehensive enough, and there are too many variables. If the universe is not constant, it is just as enormously ridiculous to theorize about the last 10 billion years.
There is a solution that answers every one of these questions.
Genesis 1. If we believe that an all-powerful, eternal Being created the universe, that answers all the questions! It tells us where matter came from, it tells us what happened to form the bodies in the universe, and it tells us how the universe became orderly, functional, and beautiful, and how they maintain that order. Now if God can create such a vast universe out of nothing, wouldn't it have been a little thing for Him to create black holes too? He could have made as many as He wanted, and made them as big as He wanted. No need to sweat over millions of years and how fast black holes grow. It's not that complicated!
My point is that 'scientists' have been making theories about the origin of the universe, and specifically about black holes. That's ok.
But as technology improves, scientists' theories are often proved wrong. The article specifically mentioned that these new discoveries made big problems to his basic understanding of black holes. So these 'millions of years' philosophers get there underwear all bunched up trying to formulate a new theory every time improved technology proves their theory wrong.
The Bible has never been proven wrong, and it explains many of the things that confuse scientists. Yet these 'scientists' continue to wallow in their evolutionary concepts and are proven wrong time after time.
I do think that there was some sort of a big bang all those years ago. Maby because there is a maximum size a black hole can have beyond which it goes BANG. However I'm also convinced that the universe was already full of stuff scattered all over the place. Things such as black holes and galaxies were already floating around. In other words the big bang was not the beginning, it was more like a messy rebirth or recycling event. Also, trying to explain any of this with religion will only lead to mas hysteria and human sacrifices 😬😁.
I have to run, there are people outside with pitchforks....
Where did all the stuff that was floating around at the time of the big bang come from?
The fact that theories are proven wrong demonstrates the strength of the scientific method. It is a process that is constantly modified and does not claim an absolute truth, as you theist nutters do.
You are violating the forum rules by proselytizing. Go take your sky daddy preaching elsewhere. This is Live Science.