The Webb telescope detects a black hole formed 13 billion years ago

(CNN) — The James Webb Space Telescope has made another stunning discovery: it has detected an active supermassive black hole at a depth never before recorded in the universe.

The black hole is in CEERS 1019, a very old galaxy that likely formed 570 million years after the Big Bang, making it a galaxy over 13 billion years old. Scientists have been intrigued by the small size of this celestial object’s central black hole.

“This black hole measures approximately 9 million solar masses,” according to a NASA press release. A solar mass is a unit equivalent to the mass of the Sun in our solar system, which is approximately 333,000 times greater than that of the Earth.

That’s “far fewer than other black holes that also existed in the early universe and have been detected by other telescopes,” according to NASA. “These colossi typically contain more than a billion times the mass of the Sun, and they’re easier to spot because they’re so much brighter.”

The ability to focus on such a faint and distant black hole is a key feature of the Webb Telescope, which uses highly sensitive instruments to detect otherwise invisible light.

“Looking at this distant object with this telescope is a bit like looking at black hole data that exists in galaxies near ours,” said Rebecca Larson, who earned her doctorate this year at the University of Texas. in Austin. Larson, who led this discovery, is now a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The researchers not only located this fascinating black hole, but also discovered two others nearby that appear to have formed about 1 billion years after the big bang and were also faint compared to others from that time.

Eleven new galaxies have also been recorded with evidence from Webb’s Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) survey, also led by the University of Texas at Austin.

In the galaxy CEERS 1019

The relative smallness of the black hole at the center of CEERS 1019 is a mystery to scientists. It is unclear how such a small black hole formed at the dawn of the universe, which is known to produce much larger gravitational wells.

The CEERS 1019 galaxy has other interesting attributes. For example, it appears as a chain of three bright points, rather than a singular disc-shaped formation like many other galaxies.

“We’re not used to seeing so much structure in images at these distances,” says CEERS team member Jeyhan Kartaltepe from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. “A galaxy merger could be partly responsible for fueling the activity in this galaxy’s black hole, and it could also lead to increased star formation.”

Newly discovered galaxies continue to spew out new stars, according to NASA. And these results, along with others from the CEERS survey, could lead to some exciting discoveries.

Watch Saturn’s Rings Shine Up Close 1:38

“Webb was the first to detect some of these galaxies,” said Seiji Fujimoto, a NASA Hubble Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, who was part of the University of Texas at Austin team that discovered 11 new galaxies, in a statement. . “This set, along with other distant galaxies we may identify in the future, could change our understanding of star formation and galaxy evolution throughout cosmic history.”

The researchers also note that the black hole within CEERS 1019 may only briefly remain the most distant active supermassive black hole on record.

The astronomical community is already studying data that could point to other more distant black holes. It could do it in as little as “a few weeks”, according to NASA.

You may also like...