An artist's impression of a super-massive black hole at the centre of a distant quasar
An artist's impression of a super-massive black hole at the centre of a distant quasar
PA

Astronomers have just discovered a super-massive black hole weighing as much as 12 billion suns.

Thankfully, it's in a galaxy far, far away (12.8bn light years from Earth, to be precise). More worryingly, however, is the fact that it's not even the biggest one ever found. But its formation has puzzled astronomers.

According to National Geographic, the black hole grew to its mammoth size 875 million years after the big bang, when the universe was just six per cent of its current age. A rate of growth unknown before.

The international team of researchers, who published their findings in Nature this week, couldn't see the black hole itself - because no light can escape it - but instead spotted a giant ball of energy, known as a quasar, that heats up the closer it gets to the vacuum using telescopes across the world.

This quasar is very unique. We are so excited, when we found that there is such a luminous and massive quasar only 0.9bn years after the Big Bang. Just like the brightest lighthouse in the distant universe, its glowing light will help us to probe more about the early universe.

  • Professor Xue-Bing Wu, Peking University
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