Curated by RSF Research Staff
Discovery of an Ancient Supermassive Black Hole is Upending Conventional Theory of Star and Galaxy Formation
A recent discovery of a quasar 13.1 billion light years from Earth has physicists asking, “what are we missing”? The quasar is the visible signature of a supermassive black hole residing at its center and emitting jets of polarized particles shining 400 trillion times brighter than our Sun. The newly discovered behemoth, weighing in at 800 million solar masses (800 times the mass of our Sun), which is over 175 times the mass of the black hole that resides in the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, Sagittarius A, is now the oldest identified supermassive black hole. The problem for physicists is that the conventional model of star and galaxy formation does not allow for black holes of this size to form so early---this one being observed at just 690 million years after the big bang.
Standard theory says that black holes form from the collapse of stars with at least 25 solar masses or more. This requires that large stars had to of formed, burned through their fusionable-nuclei (terminating at the element iron), undergone a supernova explosion, and left behind an approximate 10 solar mass black hole. The black hole would then have to accrete additional material at the optimal rate (known as the Eddington rate, doubling in mass every ten thousand years) for at least a billion years to reach a size of a billion solar masses. The problem is that the recently observed black hole was already close to a billion solar masses at a time when the first stars (Population III stars) were just forming, so how could it have possibly formed from a stellar remnant? What are physicists missing?
A possible explanation comes from a prediction made by physicist Nassim Haramein---that black holes form first, and stars and galaxies then accrete around the nucleating core of the black hole. With the recent observation of the ancient quasar leaving little alternative to this idea, many astrophysicists are now adopting Haramein’s model. The lead researcher of a study to correlate the size of a galaxy to the mass of it’s central black hole, Mar Mezcua from the Institute of Space Sciences in Spain stated it this way:
"We have discovered black holes that are far larger and way more massive than anticipated"--- either they started big and then pulled a galaxy around them, or we're missing something in our current knowledge about how galaxies produce black holes---"are they so big because they had a head start or because certain ideal conditions allowed them to grow more rapidly over billions of years?”
Interestingly, the study led by Mezcua seems to indicate that the faster the growth rate of the central supermassive black hole, the faster the growth rate of stars, and hence the larger the galaxy.
The search is now on to find the first seed black holes, which could have formed during the inflationary period, the initial most epoch of cosmogenesis in which primordial black holes could have formed at a range of sizes---from the size of a proton to several hundred solar masses. One thing is becoming clear, the importance of these unique spacetime structures are integral to the formative history and current state of the universe.
This research was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: the most massive black holes on the Fundamental Plane of black hole accretion