Astronomers have just found 83 quasars powered by supermassive black holes dating back to the childhood of the universe, when it was less than 10 percent of their present age.
This discovery reveals that such objects were more frequent than we thought at the beginning of time, and casts doubt on our entire cosmological model.
Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe, extremely luminous galactic nuclei fed by active supermassage black holes. As the material swirls around the black hole, its friction generates such intense radiation that it can be seen in billions of light years.
There is only one big problem. We think we know how black holes form – they are the collapsed cores of massive stars. And supermassive black holes can have up to billions of times the mass of the sun.
This takes time and requires a large amount of matter. How the hell did all those quasars come up so early in the history of the universe?
"It is remarkable that such massive, dense objects could form so soon after the Big Bang," said astrophysicist Michael Strauss of Princeton University. 1
We know that quasars hang at that time. The oldest we've seen dates back about 690 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was about five percent of its present age – and a few others were also discovered.
But these – although still a mystery – were considered relatively rare. For example, astronomers from Japan, Taiwan, and the US expanded their search using data from the Hyper-Suprime cam mounted on the Subaru telescope in Hawaii.
With this instrument they could search for weaker quasars than they had previously discovered. The oldest quasar they found was only 13.05 billion light years away and built the second most important quasar ever found.
It is believed that the universe is about 13.8 billion years old and the first stars – we believe – not appear only about 500 million years after the Big Bang, after the neutral hydrogen of the early and early Universe had been reionized , The quasars only have to form a few hundred million years.
The team's survey suggests that these objects were abundant back then. They identified candidate quasars in the HSC data and then conducted a targeted survey using multiple telescopes to obtain light signatures or spectra from these objects.
These spectra have produced the 83 new quasars in recent years. Together with 17 known quasars in the survey region, the team calculated that there would be about one quasar for each cubic giga-light year; this is a cubic space with a billion light years per side.
That's more than previously thought, but it's not enough for another hypothesis.
Immediately after the Big Bang, the universe was a sort of dark, hot "primordial soup" on a cosmic scale, expanding rapidly.
As it expanded, it cooled off, and protons and neutrons began to ionize hydrogen atoms; About 240,000 to 300,000 years after the Big Bang, these hydrogen atoms attracted electrons and formed neutral hydrogen.
But only when gravity began to contract the first stars and galaxies in this murky, hydrogen-filled cavity did starlight shine … and not long after, according to current theories, neutral hydrogen became the ultraviolet light of these newborn stars, Galaxies, as yet undiscovered quasars or a combination of all three excited.
This epoch is called reionization, and we just do not know how it happened. However, based on this research, we now know that there were not enough quasars to be solely responsible for this process.
The new Quasar population data will help us learn more about the formation of supermassive black holes in the early Universe – and the team will continue the search to see if they can find any older quasars. This could help the researchers to find out when the first black holes were born.
"The quasars we have discovered will be an interesting subject for further observations with current and future facilities," said astronomer Yoshiki Matsuoka of Ehime University in Japan
"We are also becoming more supermassive about origins and early development Learning black holes by comparing the measured number density and the brightness distribution with predictions from theoretical models. "
The discoveries were described in detail in five publications, which is possible here, here, here and here to find.