Black hole experts from Japan, Taiwan and Princeton University in the US have traced 83 distant quasars to a time when the universe was only five percent of its current age. Quasars are extremely remote and bright sources of energy, similar to stars but farther from Earth than any known object. These incredible sources of light radiate more energy at once than 100 galaxies combined and are powered by supermassive black holes in their centre. And according to the latest quasar research, at least 83 of them formed in a relatively short amount of time after the Big Bang.
Michael Strauss, a professor of astrophysics at Princeton, dubbed the study of these quasars and black holes one of the biggest challenges faced by scientists today.
He said: “It is remarkable that such massive dense objects were able to form so soon after the Big Bang.
“Understanding how black holes can form in the early universe, and just how common they are, is a challenge for our cosmological models.”
But the study is crucial because it expands the number of known black holes from the earliest days of the universe.
The black hole discovery could also shed some much-needed insight into the history of the universe and just how common black holes are.
Astronomers are also hopeful the study will help better understand how black holes affected the state of gas in the first one billion years of the universe’s existence.
The universe itself is estimated to only be around 13.8 billions years old when traced back to the point of the Big Bang.
The incredible research into supermassive black holes was spread across five groundbreaking studies published in The Astrophysical Journal and the Publications of the Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
Supermassive black holes may be a common sight at the centre of many distant galaxies but astronomers are yet to understand how they formed.
These super-dense wells of gravity in the depths of space can be millions or billions times heavier than the Sun at the heart of our solar system.
Black holes are typically not visible to the naked eye or instrumentation here on Earth but when a black hole consumes enough gas, it spews a quasar of pure light out into space.
According to a statement published by Princeton, scientists have until now been able to only detect the strongest quasars ejected by the biggest black holes.
The new research, however, has probed the smaller and fainter quasars fuelled by black holes similar to those at the centre of newer galaxies.
Yoshiki Matsuoka, a former Princeton postdoctoral researcher, said: “The quasars we discovered will be an interesting subject for follow-up observations with current and future facilities.
“We will also learn about the formation and early evolutions of supermassive black holes, by comparing the measured number density and luminosity distribution with predictions from theoretical models.”
The scientists involved in the reattach mow hope to find even more evidence of supermassive black holes from the universe’s distant past.
The research was made possible thanks to the Subaru Telescope of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, which is mounted on Mount Maunakea in Hawaii.