Using two powerful NASA space telescopes, astronomers have discovered a black hole so distant that it could reveal how some of the first supermassive black holes formed.
The researchers collected data from NASA’s Chandra .
The research was published using NASA telescopes led by Akos Bogdan with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Nature astronomy on monday.
The black hole was found in the galaxy UHZ1. NASA said it was difficult to spot because it hid among a group of galaxies about 3.5 billion light-years from Earth. However, Webb’s data revealed that the young black hole in UHZ1 was much farther away, 13.2 billion light-years away from Earth.
Supermassive black holes: how big are they?
The astronomy research team followed Webb’s data with Chandra to find extremely hot gas emitting X-rays. Astronomers say this is a sign of a supermassive black hole.
Mystery surrounds how black holes form and grow so quickly
This discovery is exciting for black hole research because there is still much unknown about these mysteries of the universe. Astronomers believe that black holes formed within the first billion years after the Big Bang.
Most, if not all, galaxies contain a supermassive black hole at the center, but how they begin to form and reach massive masses so soon after the Big Bang is still unknown.
“There are physical limits to how fast black holes can grow once they form, but the black holes that are born the most massive have a head start. It’s like planting a sapling, which takes less time to grow into a full-sized tree than it would if it were to grow,” said Andy Golding, co-author of the study. From Princeton University: “It started with just a seed.”
Astronomers use the mass of our Sun as a measure of black holes. The mass of a black hole is commonly called the “solar mass.” One solar mass is defined as the mass of our Sun.
Using Chandra and Webb’s data, the study’s authors say they have found strong evidence that this newly discovered black hole gave birth to a massive one, estimated to be between 10 and 100 million suns.
Are black holes dangerous to us?
The discovery is consistent with a 2017 theory by astronomer Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University about a “supermassive black hole” formed by the collapse of a massive cloud of gas.
“We believe this is the first detection of a massive black hole and the best evidence obtained so far that some black holes form from massive clouds of gas,” Natarajan said in a statement. “For the first time, we are witnessing a brief phase where the supermassive black hole weighs as much as the stars in its galaxy, before it recedes.”
This will not be the last collaboration using the James Webb Space Telescope on black holes. The research team plans to use more data from Webb and other telescopes to further investigate the early universe, including massive black hole galaxies.
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