A group of researchers from the State University of Pennsylvania have announced the discovery of a black hole that they say existed 850 million years after the big bang.
The researchers, who used the NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory, underscore the importance of the discovery of a “primordial” black hole like this: “It is extraordinarily demanding to find quasars in this cloaked phase because much of their radiation it is absorbed and cannot be detected by current instruments,” says Fabio Vito, a researcher at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile who led the study.
Probably the quasar PSO 167-13, discovered for the first time by the telescope in optical light to the Hawaii Pan-STARRS, a very bright supermassive black hole that probably lies at the center of its galaxy directing its gravity. According to the researchers, in fact, the black hole is obscured by the dense cloud of gas that would also have contributed to its growth.
As you may have noticed we are inserting many “probably” also because the authors are not sure if the X-ray emissions they have received, which are in themselves very weak, are really inherent to PSO 167-13 or to another quasar of another galaxy nearby.
If it is PSO 167-13, then we need to explain why it appears “obscured” to X-rays but not in optical light. There may have been a large and rapid, but also unusual, increase in the dimming of the quasar over the three years between the first observation with the Hawaiian telescope in optical light and the second X-ray observation with the space telescope.
However, if it is not PSO 167-13, then it means that we are faced with two very close quasars, the most distant pair of quasars ever detected.
“We suspect that most of the supermassive black holes in the primordial universe are hidden: it is, therefore, essential to identify them and study them to understand how they could grow to reach masses of a billion suns so rapidly,” says Roberto Gilli of INAF, one of the authors of the research published on Astronomy & Astrophysics.
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