"We have found what are likely first-generation quasars, born in a dust-free medium and at the earliest stages of evolution," said Linhua Jiang of the University of Arizona, Tucson and lead author of the study.
During the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang, there was no dust in the universe, just the most basic of gases. Before galaxies formed, it is thought primordial supermassive black holes were ignited as quasars, blasting the universe with intense X-ray radiation, so these earliest quasars wouldn't have contained any dust.
However, this is the first time that observational evidence of dust-free quasars has been confirmed, providing a tantalizing glimpse at how these gargantuan black holes formed and the conditions of the cosmos within the first billion years.
"We think these early black holes are forming around the time when the dust was first forming in the universe, less than one billion years after the Big Bang," said Xiaohui Fan, leader of the original Sloan discovery team. "The primordial universe did not contain any molecules that could coagulate to form dust. The elements necessary for this process were produced and pumped into the universe later by stars."