Washington: A steady diet of cold, thin streams of gas are what pushed the rapid growth of early supermassive black holes, according to astrophysicists.
Computer simulations show that the gas flowed uncontrolled into the centre of the first black holes, causing them to grow faster than anything else in the universe.
In the early days of the universe, a mere 700 to 800 million years after the Big Bang, most things were small. The first stars and galaxies were just beginning to form and grow in isolated parts of the universe, the Astrophysical Journal Letters reports.
The astrophysical theory says black holes found during this era also should be small in proportion with the galaxies in which they reside, according to a Carnegie Mellon University statement.
Recent observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have shown that this isn't the case -- enormous supermassive black holes existed as early as 700 million years after the Big Bang.
"The Sloan Digital Sky Survey found supermassive black holes at less than one billion years. They were the same size as today's most massive black holes, which are 13.6 billion years old," said Tiziana Di Matteo, associate professor of physics at Carnegie Mellon's Centre for Cosmology.
"It was a puzzle. Why do some black holes form so early when it takes the whole age of the universe for others to reach the same mass?" he asked.
Supermassive black holes are the largest black holes, with masses billions of times larger than that of the sun. Typical black holes have masses only up to 30 times larger than the sun's.
Astrophysicists have determined that supermassive black holes can form when two galaxies collide and their two black holes merge into one.
These galaxy collisions happened in the later years of the universe but not in the early days. In the first few millions of years after the Big Bang, galaxies were too few and too far apart to merge.
First Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 17:44