NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) detected a 13.2-billion-year-old supermassive black that could change our understanding of the early universe.
Scientists are also puzzled about how the black hole formed so soon after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, when most of the voids appeared a billion years ago.
The massive chasm, the oldest ever detected, lies at the center of the galaxy CEERS 1019, dating back 570 million years to the event that gave birth to the universe.
A team led by the University of Texas at Austin determined that the giant chasm is about nine million times the mass of our sun and growing – it is feasting on the surrounding interstellar gas and dust.
The previous holder of the oldest supermassive black hole was discovered in 2021 and formed 13 billion years ago.
The massive chasm, the oldest ever detected, lies at the center of the galaxy CEERS 1019 and dates back 570 million years to the event that gave birth to the universe.
JWST has outlived its reputation since it was launched in 2021 on a quest to understand the universe and our origins by examining each phase of cosmic history.
The NASA telescope has discovered the oldest galaxy in the universe and ancient planets that should not exist due to their age.
And now, JWST can add the oldest black hole to its list of discoveries.
The scientists were in the midst of the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Scientific Survey (CEERS) led by Steven Finkelstein when they received data on the massive void.
The black hole inside CEERS 1019 is most similar to the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, which is 4.6 million times the mass of the sun.
However, it is also much smaller than most watches at over a billion times the mass.
Black holes form when the center of a very massive star collapses in on itself, leaving a void through which no light enters or leaves.
The project also discovered two more black holes in the The galaxies CEERS 746 and CEERS 2782, which are slightly larger and weigh 10 million times the mass of the Sun.
Astronomers call the CEERS trio ‘lightweights’ and believe they could reshape our understanding of how supermassive black holes formed and grew during the universe’s first billion years.
The project also discovered two more black holes in the galaxies CEERS 746 and CEERS 2782, which are slightly larger and weigh 10 million times the mass of the Sun.
“This is critical because the universe was shrouded in a dense ‘fog’ during this period, known as the Reionization Era,” the researchers shared in a press release.
At this time in the universe, neutral gas was ionized for hundreds of millions of years, making it transparent to ultraviolet light.
What led to this period is unclear, though it’s something astronomers hope JWST can answer.
Dale Kocevski, from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, said: “Researchers have known for a long time that there must be lower-mass black holes in the early universe.”
‘Webb is the first observatory that can capture them so clearly.
“We now think that lower-mass black holes could be everywhere, waiting to be discovered.”
‘Before Webb, all three black holes were too faint to detect. “With other telescopes, these targets look like ordinary star-forming galaxies, not active supermassive black holes,” Finkelstein added.
This was made possible by JWST’s sensitive spectra that allowed researchers to measure precise distances, and therefore the ages, of galaxies in the early universe.
“Until now, research on objects in the early universe was largely theoretical,” Finkelstein said.
‘With Webb, we can not only see black holes and galaxies at extreme distances, we can now begin to measure them precisely. That is the tremendous power of this telescope.