A new Nature paper has been getting a lot of press over the past couple days. The black hole lies at the center of a quasar and is reported to have a mass greater than 10 billion (1010 for those of you who don’t use American numbering conventions) solar masses. What makes this black hole so interesting is that not only is it huge, but it also formed less than a billion years after the Big Bang. According to the abstract, this black hole as well as some other large, ancient black holes don’t really fit in with current models of black hole formation.
In case you don’t know what a black hole is:
A black hole is a hypothetical object created when so much mass accretes into a small enough volume that the escape velocity from some radius near the black hole exceeds the speed of light (i.e. particles/objects must attain infinite kinetic energy to escape). Black holes are a consequence of general relativity, which requires that gravity act on all forms of energy, including light. Not even light can escape the black hole since it will be infinitely redshifted.