Findings pose a possible answer to long-standing question of when the black holes at galactic centers formed.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — For years, astronomers have pondered a cosmic version of the chicken-and-egg problem: Which came first, monster black holes or the galaxies in which they reside? A new study hints that the black holes formed first.
Supermassive black holes cram the equivalent of millions to billions of suns into a volume smaller than the solar systems at the centers of galaxies. The preliminary finding suggests that early in the universe, supermassive black holes had already packed on most of their mass, and that the fireworks and fierce winds associated with the holes’ rapid growth triggered the formation of the black holes’ host galaxies, says Chris Carilli of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, N.M. He reported his team’s study at a January 7 press briefing during the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
But if supermassive black holes did grow rapidly in the early universe, they would have needed to sn