(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have looked back in time – into the early Universe and witnessed an amazing sight: six galaxies, entangled in a giant cosmic web, revolve around a young supermassive black hole.
Scientists seem to have figured out how supermassive black holes formed in the early universe – they had an almost unlimited supply of “food”.
The view that opened before the researchers seems to have given the answer to a long-standing question – how supermassive black holes could appear almost immediately after the birth of the Universe. It is possible that groups of galaxies known as “super densities of galaxies” became an inexhaustible and stable source of food for black holes, due to which they gained mass very quickly.
This assumption was made after the discovery of six galaxies located at a distance of more than 12 billion light-years from us, which fell into a “giant web” near a supermassive black hole. The study, in the course of which scientists identified “the first spectroscopic identification of superdensity of galaxies around a supermassive black hole in the first billion years of the existence of the universe,” was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
“The importance of our work is that we were the first to discover these galaxies stuck in a spider web – they are very difficult to observe and identify,” says astronomer Marco Mignoli of the National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna, Italy, who led the study.
Supermassive black holes are unimaginably dense objects, billions of times the mass of the sun. In the modern universe, they are usually found in the center of large galaxies. There is such a black hole in the Milky Way, and its mass is four million times the mass of our Sun.
Black holes grow by feeding on any matter that falls into their zone of attraction, be it stars, gas or dust. But for a black hole to turn into a supermassive one, it takes a very long time. Where, then, did supermassive black holes come from in the early Universe and when did they manage to “eat up” the mass?
Supermassive black holes had already formed by the time the universe celebrated its billionth birthday, and this is a serious problem for extragalactic astronomy.
The region of space described in the study is so far away that light from it flew to the Earth throughout almost the entire history of the Universe (almost 14 billion years). As a result, we see the structure as it was about 900 million years after the Big Bang.
Despite its young age, the supermassive black hole in the system has already absorbed a billion solar masses. The density of stars in galaxies around a black hole is about 300 times that of the Milky Way. This density of stars is due to the large amount of dark matter in the area.
The stars are sucked into the black hole one after the other, which provides it with an incredible amount of food pouring in an endless stream. That is why it took less than one billion years to form this supermassive even hole.
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