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December 6, 2017
NASA

Scientists can now estimate when stars first began to light up the cosmic universe, thanks to the discovery of a supermassive black hole, NPR reports.

The black hole is 800 million times larger than our sun, nestled inside a bright object called a quasar, which is an emanating light that took 13 billion years to reach Earth. The black hole formed only 690 million years after the Big Bang — aka, when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age, NPR writes.

This behemoth black hole formed when stars were beginning to alter the cosmic universe by exposing objects to light. This is also around when elements on the periodic table, like hydrogen and helium, began to form. Using the black hole, scientists can now predict when stars began lighting up the universe within an accuracy of about 1 to 2 percent.

A team led by Carnegie Observatories' Eduardo Banados published the discovery Wednesday in the journal Nature. One scientist compared the team's discovery to finding a needle in a haystack — a very large and old haystack.

Read more about the study at Nature. Elianna Spitzer