NASA discovers the OLDEST supermassive black hole yet: Void dating from the dawn of the


  • Astronomers have discovered the oldest black hole ever observed
  • It dates from 400 million years after the Big Bang, more than 13 billion years ago 

Astronomers have discovered the oldest black hole ever observed – from the dawn of the universe – that is ‘eating’ its host galaxy to death.

The international team, led by the University of Cambridge, used the James Webb Space Telescope to detect the black hole by peering back in time.

The black hole dates from just 400 million years after the Big Bang, which took place more than 13 billion years ago, and is surprisingly massive – a few million times the mass of our Sun.

And the fact that it was so large so early on in the universe’s history challenges experts’ assumptions about how black holes form and grow.

Astronomers believe that the supermassive black holes found at the centre of galaxies like the Milky Way grew to their current size over billions of years.

Astronomers have discovered the oldest black hole ever observed – from the dawn of the universe – that is ‘eating’ its host galaxy to death (stock image)

Astronomers have discovered the oldest black hole ever observed – from the dawn of the universe – that is ‘eating’ its host galaxy to death (stock image) 

But the size of the newly-discovered black hole suggests that they might form in other ways – they might be ‘born big’ or they can eat matter at a rate that’s five times higher than had been thought possible.

According to standard models, supermassive black holes form from the remnants of dead stars, which collapse and may form a black hole about a hundred times the mass of the Sun.

If it grew in an expected way, this newly-discovered black hole would take about a billion years to have grown to its observed size.

However, the universe was nowhere near a billion years old when this black hole was detected.

‘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,’ Professor Roberto Maiolino said.

The black hole dates from just 400 million years after the Big Bang, which took place more than 13 billion years ago, and is surprisingly massive – a few million times the mass of our Sun (stock image)

The black hole dates from just 400 million years after the Big Bang, which took place more than 13 billion years ago, and is surprisingly massive – a few million times the mass of our Sun (stock image) 

‘Very early galaxies were extremely gas-rich, so they would have been like a buffet for black holes.’

Like all black holes, this one would have been devouring material from its host galaxy, called GN-z11 – to fuel its growth.

Yet, this ancient black hole is found to gobble matter much more vigorously than its siblings at later epochs.

Over time this could stop the process of star formation, slowing killing the galaxy and the black hole’s food source, therefore killing the black hole itself.

Experts said it is impossible to know what the black hole or its host galaxy looks like today because it takes so long for light from that far away to reach us.

The findings were published in the journal Nature.

BLACK HOLES HAVE A GRAVITATIONAL PULL SO STRONG NOT EVEN LIGHT CAN ESCAPE

Black holes are so dense and their gravitational pull is so strong that no form of radiation can escape them – not even light.

They act as intense sources of gravity which hoover up dust and gas around them. Their intense gravitational pull is thought to be what stars in galaxies orbit around.

How they are formed is still poorly understood. Astronomers believe they may form when a large cloud of gas up to 100,000 times bigger than the sun, collapses into a black hole.

Many of these black hole seeds then merge to form much larger supermassive black holes, which are found at the centre of every known massive galaxy.

Alternatively, a supermassive black hole seed could come from a giant star, about 100 times the sun’s mass, that ultimately forms into a black hole after it runs out of fuel and collapses.

When these giant stars die, they also go ‘supernova’, a huge explosion that expels the matter from the outer layers of the star into deep space. 



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