During the last few years, as we have been able to peer back more profoundly into the initial Universe, astronomers have found something incredibly puzzling.
Previously when the Universe was a billion years old, giant black holes up to more than a billion times the mass of the Sun had already somehow formed. Provided what we know about black hole formation and development, the presence and size of these behemoths are incredibly challenging to understand.
Supercomputer simulations have demonstrated an origin that explains how they were created without the need for exotic conditions. The rare reservoirs of turbulent cold gas that collapsed into stars are more gigantic than anything in the Universe today, and these would have been the massive seeds that evolved into supermassive black holes.
“We find supermassive black holes at the centers of most massive galaxies today, which can be millions or billions of times the mass of the Sun. But back in 2003 we began finding quasars – highly luminous, actively-accreting supermassive black holes that are like cosmic lighthouses in the early Universe – that existed less than a billion years after the Big Bang,” said cosmologist Daniel Whalen of the University of Portsmouth in the UK.
“No one understood how they formed by such early times. This discovery is particularly exciting because it has overturned 20 years of thought on the origin of the first supermassive black holes in the Universe.”