Published on Tue Nov 09 2021

Conditions for direct black hole seed collapse near a radio-loud quasar 1 Gyr after the Big Bang

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Observations of luminous quasars and their supermassive black holes at z~6 suggest that they formed at dense matter peaks in the early universe. However, few studies have found definitive evidence that the quasars lie at cosmic density peaks, in clear contrast with theory predictions. Here we present new evidence that the radio-loud quasar SDSS J0836+0054 at z=5.8 could be part of a surprisingly rich structure of galaxies. This conclusion is reached by combining a number of findings previously reported in the literature: Bosman et al. (2020) obtained the redshifts of three companion galaxies, confirming an overdensity of i-dropouts found by Zheng et al. (2006). By comparing this structure with those found near other quasars and large overdense regions in the field at z~6-7, we show that the SDSS J0836+0054 field is among the densest structures known at these redshifts. One of the spectroscopic companions is a very massive star-forming galaxy (log M_*/M_sun ~ 10.3) based on its unambiguous detection in a Spitzer 3.6 um image. This suggests that the quasar field hosts not one, but at least two rare, massive dark matter halos (log M_halo/M_sun > 12), corresponding to a galaxy overdensity of at least 20. We discuss the properties of the young radio source. We conclude that the environment of SDSS J0836+0054 resembles, at least qualitatively, the type of conditions that may have spurred the direct collapse of a massive black hole seed according to recent theory.