Prehistoric Black Hole (Artist's Concept)

This artist's conception illustrates one of the most primitive supermassive black holes known at the core of a young, star-rich galaxy.

Astronomers have uncovered two of these early objects, dating back to about 13 billion years ago. These monstrous black holes are among the most distant known. They appear to be in the very earliest stages of formation, earlier than any observed so far, because they lack dust. Usually, the accretion disk of a black hole becomes surrounded by a dark, dusty structure called a dust torus. But for the primitive black holes, this dust is missing and only gas disks are observed. This is because the early universe was surprisingly clean. Not enough time had passed for molecules to clump together into dust particles, so some black holes forming in this era started out lacking dust.

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Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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