An international team of astronomers announced today the discovery of the most distant known supermassive black hole, seen as a luminous quasar caused by gas falling into the black hole.
The discovery came to light using data from an ongoing infrared sky survey being conducted at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) and critical follow-up confirmation observations with the Gemini North telescope, both on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The results are presented in the June 30, 2011 issue of the Journal Nature.
The light from the quasar started its journey toward us when the universe was only 6% of its present age, a mere 770 million years after the Big Bang, at a ‘redshift’ of about 7.1.
“This gives astronomers a headache,” says lead author Daniel Mortlock, from Imperial College London. “It’s difficult to understand how a black hole a billion times more massive than the Sun can have grown so early in the history of the universe. It’s like rolling a snowball down the hill and suddenly you find that it’s 20 feet across!”Read more