A black hole that formed faster than was previously thought possible has been discovered. It’s big too, weighing as much as 12 billion suns, but it’s the speed with which it formed that’s a surprise to scientists. Black holes were thought to need a great expanse of time to develop–and believe it or not 875 million years is not a great expanse, relatively speaking. Scientists believe it took only 875 million years (after the Big Bang) for this newly discovered black hole to reach its enormous size.
Black holes are indicated by the quasars they’re found in. To grow, black holes vacuum up gas and stars that come close in the quasar. National Geographic quotes Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, who describes the quasar hosting this newly discovered black hole as “the biggest monster we’ve ever detected in terms of luminosity.” It is “40,000 times as bright” as the Milky Way. A scientific paper on the black hole in the journal Nature labels the quasar “ultraluminous.”
Note: An earlier version of this article mistakenly reported that the black hole was relatively young. It should have said it formed quickly. We’re grateful to a reader for bringing the error to our attention.