Astronomers say they have discovered the oldest black hole yet.
It formed 470 million years after the Big Bang and was detected in X-rays using NASA telescopes.
There is “strong evidence” that it was born “massive” – and is believed to weigh between 10% and 100% of the mass of all the stars in its galaxy.
NASA said the black hole was at an early stage of growth never seen before, which may explain how some of the first supermassive black holes in the universe formed.
The results confirm what were until now theories that supermassive black holes existed at the dawn of the universe.
Scientists believe that the universe began 13.7 billion years ago, which means that the estimated age of the black hole is 13.2 billion years old.
The black hole found in a galaxy called UHZ1 is 10 times larger than the one in our own Milky Way, which is 14.6 million miles in diameter.
What is a black hole?
Black holes are regions of space where an enormous amount of mass is packed into a small volume.
This creates a gravitational pull so strong that not even light can escape.
NASA said: “This discovery is important for understanding how some supermassive black holes can reach colossal masses shortly after the Big Bang.
“Do they arise directly from the collapse of massive gas clouds, creating black holes weighing between about 10,000 and 100,000 suns? Or do they come from explosions of the first stars, creating black holes weighing only between about 10 and 100 suns?”
Explaining the differences between black holes, co-author of the Nature Astronomy paper, Andy Goulding, said: “There are physical limits to how fast black holes can grow once they are formed, but those born more massive have an edge .
“It’s like planting a sapling, which takes less time to grow into a full-sized tree than if you started with just a seed.”
Priyamvada Natarajan, who participated in the study published in Nature Astronomy, said: “It’s just really early in the universe to be such a giant.”
She also said: “We believe this is the first detection of a ‘massive black hole’ and the best evidence yet obtained that some black holes form from massive clouds of gas.
“For the first time, we see a brief phase in which a supermassive black hole weighs about as much as the stars in its galaxy before falling backwards.”
Scientists used a combination of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to discover the black hole.