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Astronomers spot 83 massive black holes from early universe

Something that emits no light and is 13 billion light-years away is, by definition, pretty hard to spot, but a team using Japan’s Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii has found 83 giant black holes from that epoch, when the universe was 5% of its current age, greatly increasing the number known, CNET reports. The discoveries are all supermassive black holes, the type that lurk at the centers of galaxies weighing millions or billions of times as much as our sun. If such a beast is actively consuming material from the surrounding galaxy, that gas—just before it gets swallowed up—is heated to such a temperature that it glows brightly, revealing the black hole’s presence. Such bright galaxies, known as quasars, are the most distant objects known, but it remains a puzzle how such a large black hole could have formed when the universe was less than a billion years old. Adding 83 new quasars to the population, including one when the universe was just 750 million years old, as astronomers reported last month in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, only compounds the mystery because such giants seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

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