Astronomers have discovered 83 previously unknown supermassive black holes, by peering into the darkest depths of our universe.
The international team mounted a “Hyper Suprime-Cam” onto the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii in a search for the black holes. The furthest of these was discovered lurking 13 billion light-years away!
A supermassive black hole is the largest type of black hole you can find in the universe. Its mass can be hundreds of thousands, to billions times larger than the mass of the Sun.
While the holes cannot be directly visible from a telescope, they can be detected thanks to the mass amounts of energy that they release when eating on nearby matter. When this happens, the phenomenon is called a quasar.
As noted by CNET, these giant black holes generate mammoth gravitational effects. It means that you can find supermassive black holes hiding out at the center of galaxies being orbited by billions of stars.
Because these quasars are from so many light years away, the astronomers are effectively looking into the past. These are from a time when the universe was less than 10 per-cent of its present age.
Scientists aren’t sure how black holes were actually formed, but this study could help with that. According to the press release, the findings helped to provide new insight into the effect of black holes on the physical state of gas in the early universe in its first billion years.
Co-author of the study and professor of astrophysical sciences, Michael Strauss, couldn’t believe the discovery that was made:
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.
Being able to detect them this far back in time will help to provide new avenues of exploration. As the Big Bang took place 13.8 billion years ago, we may not be too far away from finding the source of the Big Bang!