James Webb has discovered the earliest black hole ever, existing just 570 million years after the Big bang.
Have you ever though what is the earliest black hole in the universe that came into existence? If you haveDistant cosmic realms reveal yet another unprecedented discovery as astronomers identify the most remote active supermassive black hole to date, utilizing the power of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This marvel is found in the galaxy CEERS 1019, which existed a mere 570 million years following the Big Bang, and houses a black hole much lighter than those typically identified in the early universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope has Found the Earliest Supermassive Black hole Ever
In this discovery, the researchers didn’t stop at one; they spotted two other smaller black holes that came into existence 1 billion and 1.1 billion years post-Big Bang. Coupled with this, the JWST helped identify eleven galaxies from a time when the universe was only 470 to 675 million years old.
The discoveries were facilitated by JWST’s Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) program, spearheaded by Professor Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas. By combining intricate near- and mid-infrared imagery from JWST with data known as spectra, the CEERS program could unveil these astronomical wonders.
Evolving Understanding of Black Holes
“We’re peering at this far-off celestial body as if observing data from black holes nestled in galaxies closer to us,” stated Rebecca Larson, the study’s leader. The unique aspect of CEERS 1019 is not just its impressive age but also the surprisingly light weight of its black hole, which stands around 9 million solar masses, a figure much lower compared to black holes detected by other telescopes in the early universe.
Comparing Galactic Giants
This lesser mass is akin to the black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy, which weighs 4.6 million times the mass of the Sun. But the black hole in CEERS 1019, albeit smaller, existed considerably earlier, leading to questions regarding its formation in the universe’s infancy. Researchers have speculated about smaller black holes in the early universe, but definitive evidence was only recently made possible with the advent of JWST.
Dissecting Emissions: A Glimpse Into the Universe’s Past
The research team skillfully differentiated between emissions originating from the black hole and its host galaxy, determining the rate of gas ingestion and star formation in the galaxy. Astonishingly, the team found the galaxy to be consuming as much gas as possible while concurrently producing new stars.
CEERS 1019 isn’t a single circular disk but three bright clusters. Such a structure is unusual for images at these distances. A potential explanation, proposed by CEERS team member Jeyhan Kartaltepe, could be a galaxy merger fuelling the black hole’s activity and sparking increased star formation.
Exploring the Early Universe
These findings represent the inaugural insights from the CEERS survey. Finkelstein notes, “With Webb, we can now not only observe black holes and galaxies at extreme distances, but we can also measure them precisely.” The JWST data holds promising potential for future studies aiming to decipher the formation of the first black holes and revise theories about black holes’ growth and evolution in the universe’s early history.
The Future Unfolds
JWST, an international program run by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, presents a plethora of untapped opportunities. Dale Kocevski and his team atColby College in Waterville, USA, have already identified another pair of smaller black holes amidst the abundant data.
Unraveling Galactic Mysteries
The first of these black holes, within the galaxy CEERS 2782, was swiftly distinguished, owing to the lack of dust obscuring JWST’s vision. Therefore, researchers could pinpoint its place in the universe’s timeline: just 1.1 billion years post-Big Bang. The second black hole in the galaxy CEERS 746 appeared a tad earlier, a billion years following the Big Bang. Its luminous accretion disk, a ring of gas and dust orbiting its supermassive black hole, is partially shrouded in dust.
Lightweight Black Holes: The Future of Space Discovery
The central black hole is visible, but the dust implies it could be nestled within a galaxy rapidly expelling stars, explains Kocevski. The newly described black holes in the galaxies CEERS 2782 and CEERS 746 are also “lightweights,” especially compared to known supermassive black holes at those distances. Researchers have long suspected the presence of lesser-mass black holes in the early universe, but Webb is the first observatory to capture them so clearly.
Redefining the Galactic Map
Before JWST, these three black holes were simply too dim to detect. With the aid of JWST’s sensitive spectra, researchers can now measure distances and thus, the age of early universe galaxies accurately. Pablo Arrabal Haro from the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, and Seiji Fujimoto, a postdoctoral researcher and Hubble fellow at UT, identified 11 galaxies that existed between 470 and 675 million years after the Big Bang.
What’s truly astonishing is the detection of so many bright galaxies at these distances, which defied researchers’ initial theories. “I am astounded by the number of highly detailed spectra of distant galaxies that Webb has returned,” said Arrabal Haro.
These galaxies are in rapid star formation phases but are less chemically enriched than closer galaxies. “Webb was the first to detect some of these galaxies,” Fujimoto explained. “This set, coupled with other distant galaxies we may discover in the future, could revolutionize our understanding of star formation and galaxy evolution throughout cosmic history.”
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