Supermassive black holes have masses hundreds of millions of times that of our sun, and are at the center of almost every galaxy, Mayar said. In the study’s mathematical simulation, one was formed when two primordial galaxies — which contained much more gas relative to galaxies today — collided with each other. During the collision, the gas in the galaxies was pulled towards the center by gravitational tidal forces — like water on Earth gets pulled towards the moon — forming a dense, massive cloud that would quickly collapse into a giant black hole.
“It has been perplexing how such black holes with masses billions of times the mass of the sun could exist so early in the history of the universe,” astronomer Julie Comerford of University of California Berkeley, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an e-mail to Wired.com. “These simulations are an important advance in understanding how those supermassive black holes were built up so quickly.”
The new simulation has important implications for finding gravitational waves — ripples in the space-time continuum predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.