Mystery of Supermassive Black Holes in the Early Universe —“Not Enough Time for Them to Exist”
An enduring mystery is the existence of supermassive black holes in the early universe—such black holes would have formed less than one billion years after the Big Bang. In previous models, “there was simply not enough time for any black hole to reach a supermassive scale so soon after the birth of the universe,” says Christian Reisswig, NASA Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow in Astrophysics at Caltech and the lead author of the study. “The growth of black holes to supermassive scales in the young universe seems only possible if the ‘seed’ mass of the collapsing object was already sufficiently large.”
Certain models of supermassive black hole growth invoke the presence of “seed” black holes that result from the deaths of very early stars. These seed black holes gain mass and increase in size by picking up the materials around them—a process called accretion—or by merging with other black holes.