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Artist’s impression of one of the most distant, oldest, brightest quasars ever seen hidden behind dust. (NASA/ESA/G.Bacon, STScI)

Earlier this month, a team of researchers published a report in Nature describing a supermassive black hole (SMBH) dating to just 690 million years after the Big Bang. The discovery of such a massive object from when the Universe was a mere five percent of its current age may hold clues as to how SMBHs and early galaxies evolved.

“The quasar, J1342+0928, contains 800 million solar masses and shines 400 trillion times brighter than the Sun.”

Imagine a place in which time (as we understand it) no longer has any meaning. Now imagine the mass of millions or billions of suns concentrated into a volume smaller than a proton, from which nothing, not even light, can escape. Einstein refused to believe such things could exist, despite predicting them in his General Theory of Relativity. We’re talking about black holes, of course. Black holes dominate the Universe; we wouldn’t exist without them. Our Milky Way galaxy contains millions of black holes, and a new one is born about once a century.

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