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found: the oldest known supermassive black hole in the universe

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found: the oldest known supermassive black hole in the universe

thanks to the beacon-like glare of a quasar, astronomers have discovered the most distant supermassive black hole they’ve ever seen, carrying the mass of a whopping 800 million suns.the quasar j1342+0928, described in the journal nature, sheds new light on a mysterious epoch near the dawn of the universe – and raises more questions about how such an enormous singularity could have formed just 690 million years after the big bang, when the universe was a mere 5% of its current age.“now that we are seeing it, we have to explain it,” said lead author eduardo bañados, an astrophysicist at the observatories of the carnegie institution for science in pasadena. “and that is a big challenge for theorists right now.”quasars, also known as active galactic nuclei, are the brightest nontransient objects in the known universe. they’re thought to be caused by gas-guzzling supermassive black holes sitting at the heart of a galaxy and surrounded by a swirling accretion disk. as material in the disk falls toward the black hole, it rubs together and generates light, heat, x-rays — shining brightly at many different wavelengths.keep in mind, light takes time to get from its source to an object. it takes light from the sun about eight minutes to reach earth, so when you look at the sun (which you obviously should not, unless you have proper protective gear) you’re actually seeing what it looked like eight minutes ago. the same principle applies to a star that lies billions of ...