Scientists have discovered ULAS J1342+0928, the oldest supermassive black hole ever found - a behemoth that grew to 800 million times the mass of the sun when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age.
This newfound giant black hole, which formed just 690 million years after the Big Bang, could one day help shed light on a number of cosmic mysteries, such as how black holes could have reached gargantuan sizes quickly after the Big Bang and how the universe got cleared of the murky fog that once filled the entire cosmos.
Supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions of times that of the sun are thought to lurk at the hearts of most, if not all, galaxies.
Previous research suggested these giants release extraordinarily large amounts of light when they rip apart stars and devour matter, and likely are the driving force behind quasars, which are among the brightest objects in the universe.
Astronomers can detect quasars from the farthest corners of the cosmos, making quasars among the most distant objects known.
The farthest quasars are also the earliest known quasars - the more distant one is, the more time its light took to reach Earth.
The previous record for the earliest, most distant quasar was set by ULAS J1120+0641.
That quasar is located 13.04 billion light-years from Earth and existed about 750 million years after the Big Bang.
The newfound quasar (and its black hole), named ULAS J1342+0928, is 13.1 billion light-years away.