Given that large black holes are believed to grow from smaller “seeds,” Simcoe added, “it seems this one is much larger than we would expect given how young the universe was at that time.”
The unexpected discovery lends support to an idea put forth by some astronomers, including Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan, a professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. In an email to MACH, she said she and the others have argued that, rather than being only about 100 to 1,000 times as massive as the sun, some black hole seeds must have been 10,000 to 100,000 times more massive.
“If [we] have a head start and begin with more massive initial seeds, we can easily explain the growth history of these monster black holes,” she said. “So, the discovery of this object is tantalizing and lends support to this idea of obese starter black hole seeds.”
Banados made the discovery while looking for quasars in various maps of the early universe, and then making observations with a telescope instrument in Chile known as the Folded-port InfraRed Echellette, or FIRE.
The discovery may be only a prelude to discoveries yet to come. Simone said finding such objects could become a "growth industry" in the next decade.
And as Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrated astrophysicist who heads the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, told MACH in an email, "What looks to be anomalous discoveries now in the early universe may become commonplace for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is specifically tuned to explore the formation of galaxies in that era."
NASA says the Webb telescope will launch in spring of 2019.
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