Virtually every massive galaxy in the local Universe harbors at least one supermassive black hole (SMBH), with millions to billions of solar masses. Their ubiquity, along with their enormous power output as active galactic nuclei, has made SMBHs focal objects of interest for extragalactic astronomy, galaxy evolution and cosmology. Yet, we still do not know how or when these gravitational monsters arrived on the cosmic scene. One of the most important clues regarding their origins is also the most puzzling: SMBHs with billions of solar masses were already in place when the Universe was just 800 million years old. I will discuss this astrophysical puzzle in terms of three basic pieces, then present a selection of proposed solutions, recent insights, and future prospects.
Followed by wine and cheese in Pupin 1402