Very Old Supermassive Black holes

Astronomers today reported discovery of the oldest yet supermassive black hole, at 800 million solar masses, and at 13.1 billion light years away – we are observing it when the universe was only 690 million years old (5% of its current age).

What is interesting about this black hole is how it could have grown to such an enormous size in such a (relatively) short space of time. Theorists struggle to explain the early black hole growth. The universe at that time was in the “epoch of re-ionisation”¬† i.e. when hydrogen was being ionised¬† by the ultraviolet light from the very first stars, indeed the hydrogen surrounding this black hole appears to be still neutral (unionised).

Observation of this and other early black holes will now help inform theories about the maturing of the universe.