Scientists reckon they’ve found the oldest ever black hole yet.
Before we go any further, let’s clarify what a black hole is – other than a crazy thing in space that many of us grew up thinking we were all going to get sucked into (it was a real fear, ok).
According to NASA, a black hole is a ‘great amount of matter packed into a very small area’ with a gravitational field so strong that ‘nothing, not even light, can escape’.
There are two varieties of the things: stellar-mass and supermassive.
Stellar-mass black holes are three to dozens of times the Sun’s mass and spread throughout our Milky Way galaxy.
Whereas the supermassive lads weigh 100,000 to billions of solar masses and are found in the centres of the big galaxies – including ours.
This newly discovered black hole is a supermassive whopper has roughly the same mass as all the stars in its galaxy combined.
As reported by The Washington Post, lead author of the new paper, Akos Bogdan, said this is ‘absolutely crazy’.
That’s certainly one way of putting it.
Thought to be the oldest one NASA have discovered yet, it was apparently formed 470 million years after the Big Bang.
Picked up in X-rays from the telescopes, scientists have estimated that the black hole is 13.2 billion years old.
They’ve worked this out as they reckon the universe began 13.7 billion years ago.
Discovered in a galaxy named UHZ1, the black hole is 10 times the size of the one in our Milky Way (which has a diameter of 14.6 million miles).
And the finding of this could also help in the debate of the origins of these supermassive black holes as theorists have two competing theories – light seed vs. heavy seed.
Light seed theory says a star will collapse into the stellar mass black hole and then grow over time until it reaches the status of supermassive.
But heavy seed theory says a whopper cloud of gas (instead of an individual star) does the collapsing – leading to the black hole forming at a supermassive scale.
Bogdan said: “In this case, we can say with certainty that the black hole came from a heavy seed, it is a pretty big deal.”
However, this is only evidence from one galaxy, so it can’t really resolve the whole debate on its own.
Either way, it’s a pretty huge, and pretty elderly, black hole to be discovered.Featured Image Credit: NASA/JWST/Chandra