It’s not impossible according to physics, but we truly don’t know how this object came to exist.
Out in the extremities of the distant Universe, the earliest quasars can be found.
Supermassive black holes at the centers of young galaxies accelerate matter to tremendous speeds, causing them to emit jets of radiation.
What we observe enables us to reconstruct the mass of the central black hole, and explore the ultra-distant Universe.
Recently, a new black hole, J1342+0928, was discovered to originate from 13.1 billion years ago: when the Universe was 690 million years old, just 5% of its current age.
It has a mass of 800 million Suns, an exceedingly high figure for such early times.
Even if black holes formed from the very first stars, they’d have to accrete matter and grow at the maximum rate possible — the Eddington limit — to reach this size so rapidly.
Fortunately, other methods may also grow a supermassive black hole.
When new bursts of star formation occur, enormous quantities of massive stars are created.
These can either directly collapse or go supernova, creating large numbers of massive black holes which then merge and grow.
Only ~20 black holes this large should exist so early in the Universe.
Is this problematic for cosmology? More data will eventually decide.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.