This black hole has a mass 800 million times that of the sun and was born 690 million years after the Big Bang.
Scientists have discovered a supermassive black hole quasar, which originates from the very beginnings of the universe and it was "born" about 690 million years after the Big Bang. It's the oldest and most distant object we've ever seen.
The black hole - an area in space-time with vast gravitational effects that can absorb all matter and energy - was formed when the universe was only 5% of its current age, The Independent reports.
The newly identified quasar appears to inhabit a pivotal moment in the universe's history. Light from that age is not visible to us.
Astronomers have discovered the most distant known black hole: a so-called quasar whose light has taken 13 billion years to reach us. As the universe rapidly expanded, these particles cooled and coalesced into neutral hydrogen gas during an era that is sometimes referred to as the dark ages - a period bereft of any sources of light. Image: Robin Dienel (Courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science), via MIT.
It has been challenging for the scientists to explain how black holes gobbled up enough matter to reach supermassive sizes early in the history.
As more stars and galaxies filled the void, their radiation began to energize the hydrogen, allowing the electrons bound to the nucleus to recombine and generate other chemical reactions.
A high redshift indicates great distance, and as light takes its sweet time getting to Earth from elsewhere in space (at 186,000 miles per second), science can use this to gauge how far back in time we're seeing something.
Much bigger black holes are out there, but none so far away - at least among those found so far. "This is the most accurate measurement of that time, and a real indication of when the first stars turned on". Eduardo Bañados, lead author of the article describing the discovery, says: "Reionization was the universe's last major transition, and it is one of the current frontiers in astrophysics". But the massive black hole also comes with a massive mystery.
These massive black holes with masses larger than of the Sun are thought to lurk in most galaxies. Eventually, gravity condensed matter into the first stars and galaxies, which in turn produced light in the form of photons. It is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. "So there must be another way that it formed. And how exactly that happens, nobody knows".
The team believes that the newly discovered black hole existed in an environment that was about half neutral, half ionized.
In an effort led by MPIA's Bram Venemans, the astronomers targeted the quasar with the millimeter telescope NOEMA, operated by IRAM, in the French Alps and the VLA radio telescope array in Socorro, New Mexico.
The object, surrounded by a bright disc of gas and dust known as a quasar, is the most distant black hole to be found, said Tom Geballe, an astronomer at Gemini Observatory.