NASA discovers record-breaking black hole 13.2 billion light-years from Earth

The most distant black hole ever detected, using NASA X-rays, may explain how some of the first supermassive black holes in the universe were formed. The discovery, announced Monday, was made using X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and infrared data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Image courtesy of NASA

Nov. 6 (UPI) -- NASA has discovered a record-breaking colossal black hole, formed after the big bang, using the space agency's "cosmic magnifying glass."

"Our NASAWebb and Chandra Xray space telescopes have discovered the most distant black hole ever seen in X-rays. Webb data shows the black hole's host galaxy is 13.2 billion light-years from Earth, when the universe was only 3% of its current age," NASA announced Monday in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

NASA combined data from its James Webb Space Telescope and its Chandra X-ray Observatory to find the growing black hole, which has gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape it and was formed 470 million years after the big bang.

The black hole's massive size is estimated to be between 10 and 100 million Suns, based on the energy and brightness of the X-rays, and may explain how some of the first supermassive black holes in the universe were formed.

"We needed Webb to find this remarkably distant galaxy and Chandra to find its supermassive black hole," said Amos Bogdan of the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian, who led the newly released paper in the journal Nature Astronomy which describes the results.

"We also took advantage of a cosmic magnifying glass that boosted the amount of light we detected," Bogdan said, adding that the magnifying effect is known as gravitational lensing.

The black hole, which is at the earliest stage of growth ever seen, already has a mass similar to that of its host galaxy, according to NASA which said black holes usually only contain about a tenth of a percent of the mass of their host galaxy's stars.

"There are physical limits on how quickly black holes can grow once they've formed, but ones that are born massive have a head start," said Andy Goulding of Princeton University, the co-author of the paper in the journal Nature Astronomy, describing the results. "It's like planting a sapling, which takes less time to grow into a full-size tree than if you started with only a seed."

Researchers believe the "Outsize Black Hole" was formed from the collapse of a huge cloud of gas.

"We think that this is the first detection of an 'Outsize Black Hole' and the best evidence yet obtained that some black holes form from massive clouds of gas," said Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University, who made theoretical predictions about massive black holes in 2017.

"For the first time we are seeing a brief stage where a supermassive black hole weighs about as much as the stars in its galaxy, before it falls behind."