NASA’s top telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, may have found the oldest black hole ever discovered. It is a huge beast with an impressive mass.
The powerful cameras of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are allowing us to look back at the beginning of the history of the universe. With their help, it was possible to find a supermassive black hole formed 570 million years after the Big Bang, and its mass is 10 million times that of the Sun.
The black hole was found in one of the oldest galaxies, which was previously known as EGSY8p7 but has since been renamed CEERS_1019. Researchers have already established that shortly after the creation of the universe, many black holes were created and began to grow rapidly. Why they appeared in such large numbers in the early universe, and what fueled them, remains a mystery. The results of the new research have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal arXiv It is posted on a website called
We have found the most active galactic nucleus (AGN), the most distant, and the oldest black hole ever discovered said Rebecca Larson of the University of Texas at Austin.
Larson originally studied CEERS_1019 as part of his work analyzing the light from star formation in the very early universe. This light, called Lyman alpha emission, is produced by the ionization of neutral hydrogen during star formation activity. The early universe was filled with a nebula of neutral hydrogen that blocked the propagation of light. Light can only begin to flow freely once the hydrogen has been ionized.
This was the so-called era of reionization, which was made possible by examining galaxies like CEERS_1019.
CEERS_1019 was originally found by Hubble, but its more detailed study required JWST’s more modern, infrared-sensitive instruments. JWST observed the galaxy with all four instruments for an hour and collected a lot of data about it. While they were studying, Larson noticed something unexpected.
In addition to light from star formation, he also detected extensive emission phenomena typically associated with active galactic nuclei. When he mentioned it to some experts on the subject, things got interesting.
In the early universe, a galaxy would normally emit light either from an active galactic nucleus or from star formation. The two are not usually detected at the same time.
That a supermassive black hole existed more than 13.2 billion years ago and was seen growing is not as surprising as we might think. Much larger black holes have already been discovered in the early universe. For example, there is a black hole with a mass of 800 million solar masses hidden in the quasar galaxy J1342 + 0928, which was formed 690 million years after the Big Bang. The mass of the black hole in the galaxy J0313-1806, which was created 670 million years after the birth of the universe, is equivalent to the mass of 1.6 billion suns.
AGN emission predominates in both quasars. Larsson and his colleagues think CEERS_1019 represents an intermediate step: the point between later and larger galaxies dominated by AGNs, and when those galaxies and their black holes first started to form.
There are a lot of question marks
We did not and still do not know how black holes in galaxies became so massive early in the universe. So what we found is what we think might be the progenitor, or something that evolved into these incredibly massive quasars.” Larson explains.
When examining the supermassive black hole in the galaxy CEERS_1019, researchers believe the object formed from the collapse of a massive formation, like one of the first stars in the universe. These stars were much more massive than today’s stars, so a black hole produced by this implosion could have had a head start on its path to becoming supermassive.
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