Researchers at Peking University have announced the discovery of one of the largest black holes known to science. The black hole, named SDSS J010013.02, is 12 billion times bigger than our sun, and six times bigger than other black holes of equivalent age.
Astronomer Xue-Bing Wu and his colleagues originally found the black hole in 2013 using the Lijiang Telescope in Yunnan, China. The black hole appeared as a “bright, red, point-like source,” later determined to be a quasar. It took four telescopes from around the world to analyze the velocity of the gas, and therefore the gravitational pull, surrounding the black hole.
Nature journal reports that light from the black hole’s quasar took approximately 12.9 billion years to reach the Earth. At the time of its formation, the universe was only 900 million years old.
Wu, who led the international collaboration that found the black hole, stated that 900 million years “is actually a very short time” for a black hole to reach such a gargantuan size. CNN excerpted the incredibly challenging Nature report:
“The existence of such black holes when the Universe was less than one billion years old presents substantial challenges to theories of the formation and growth of black holes and the co-evolution of black holes and galaxies.”
Chris Willot of Victoria’s Canadian Astronomy Data Center reiterated the challenges the discovery has posed:
“We are still very uncertain as to the modes of black-hole formation and growth in the early Universe, so we do not have a leading model for this observation to pose problems to.”
Wu’s team plans to use the Hubble Space Telescope to make further observations of the discovery.