Oldest supermassive black hole ever discovered was formed 690 million years ago

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Astronomers announced this week that they’ve discovered the oldest supermassive black hole ever found. The giant black hole is 800 million times the mass of the sun, and was formed 690 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age.

Giant black holes are thought to occupy most, if not all, galaxies. They tear apart stars, devour matter and create quasars, the brightest non-transient objects in the known universe. The newfound quasar has been named ULAS J1342+0928, and is 13.1 billion light-years away.

“This particular quasar is so bright that it will become a gold mine for follow-up studies and will be a crucial laboratory to study the early universe,” said lead author Eduardo Bañados, an astrophysicist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “We have already secured observations for this object with a number of the most powerful telescopes in the world. More surprises may arise.”

Findings were reported in the journal Nature.

Illustration credit: Robin Dienel, the Carnegie Institution for Science

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