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The light from this large web-like structure, with its black hole of one billion solar masses, has travelled to Earth from when the universe was 900 million years old. It was made using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile - but larger telescopes are needed to find even fainter objects. Connect with friends faster than ever with the new Facebook app. 'These are extreme systems and to date we have had no good explanation for their existence,' the Italian researcher explained. Although there are only a handful of confirmed supermassive black holes (most are too far away to be observed), they are thought to exist at the centre of most large galaxies, including the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Like us on Facebook to see similar stories. The findings have been published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. Whatever their formation mechanism, most astronomers agree that accretion of material onto the supermassive black hole drives both active galactic nuclei and galactic jets.

Astronomers have struggled to explain how sufficiently large amounts of 'black hole fuel' could have been available to enable these objects to grow so quickly. The team behind this new study predict that it could be down to dark matter halos. Together, the gas and the invisible dark matter form the web-like structures where galaxies and black holes can evolve and allow a black hole to become supermassive. Researchers from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) say this is the first time such a close grouping has been seen so soon after the universe began. For many years, astronomers had only indirect evidence for supermassive black holes, the most compelling of which was the existence of quasars in remote active galaxies. As the name suggests, supermassive black holes contain between a million and a billion times more mass than a typical stellar black hole. More recently, direct evidence for the existence of supermassive black holes has come from observations of material orbiting the centres of galaxies. All of the galaxies surrounding the black hole were lying in a cosmic 'spider's web' of gas extending to more than 300 times the size of the Milky Way. Together, the gas and the invisible dark matter form the web-like structures where galaxies and black holes can evolve and allow a black hole to become supermassive. The Milky Way galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole (SMBH) at its center, Sagittarius A, with about four million solar-masses. For many years, astronomers had only indirect evidence for supermassive black holes, the most compelling of which was the existence of quasars in remote active galaxies. 'We believe we have just seen the tip of the iceberg, and that the few galaxies discovered so far around this supermassive black hole are only the brightest ones,' said co-author Barbara Balmaverde, an astronomer at INAF in Torino, Italy. 'The cosmic web filaments are like spider's web threads,' said Mignoli, adding the 'galaxies stand and grow where the filaments cross'.