In Brief

Supermassive black hole ‘could hold answers to how the universe began’

Scientists say the discovery challenges current theories

Astronomers have discovered the most distant supermassive black hole in our universe - and it could change our understanding of how it all began.

The black hole - an area in space-time with immense gravitational effects that can absorb all matter and energy - was formed when the universe was only 5% of its current age, The Independent reports. 

Scientists says our current understanding suggests that for a black hole of this magnitude to exist at such an early stage in the universe is theoretically impossible, the website reports. 

What makes the discovery so significant, says Engadget, is that the matter surrounding the supermassive black hole formed “just hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang”.

The researcher who led the team that made the discovery, Eduardo Banados, of the Carnegie Institute for Science, in Washington DC, told the website: “Gathering all this mass in fewer than 690 million years is an enormous challenge for theories of supermassive black hole growth.”

It also means that astronomers are observing an area of space-time that formed before stars or galaxies were born, the website says - a time we know very little about. 

Although the universe is home to billions of planets and stars, scientists believe only 20 to 100 supermassive black holes exists, according to The Verge

This can make the search for them “long and tedious”, the site says, but the hunt could lead to more answers about how the universe was formed. 

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