December 4, 2023

NASA discovers a record-breaking black hole

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Together, the James Webb and Chandra space telescopes discovered the most distant black hole. You can see what it looked like 470 million years after the Big Bang. © X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/Ákos Bogdán; Infrared: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI; Image processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Fratari and K. Arcand

How could black holes that formed shortly after the Big Bang get so big? A new discovery could help answer this question.

BALTIMORE – Astronomers have discovered the most distant black hole yet. With the help of two large space telescopes, researchers were able to find the black hole in the universe about 470 million years after the Big Bang. The research team used infrared data from the James Webb Space Telescope and X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Telescope to make the discovery.

“We needed Webb to find this remarkably distant galaxy, and Chandra to find its supermassive black hole,” says study leader Akos Bogdan from the Center for Astrophysics (CfA). – The study should be published in a specialized journal Nature astronomy It will be published and it already is Available as a preprint.

In addition to the two large telescopes, the research team used a cosmic peculiarity to their advantage: “We also took advantage of the cosmic magnifying glass, which increased the amount of light we detected,” explains Bogdan. The magnification effect is called gravitational lensing.

The oldest black hole is 13.2 billion light-years away

The galaxy cluster Abell 2744, 3.5 billion light-years from Earth, acts as a gravitational lens. Its mass ensures that the light coming from the UHZ1 galaxy behind it is amplified four times. The research team found the record black hole in the UHZ1 galaxy, as stated by the American space organization NASA in a report. notice to explain. This is what enabled the Chandra X-ray telescope to discover the weak X-ray source in the heart of the galaxy.

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The UHZ1 galaxy and the black hole at its center are located 13.2 billion light-years from Earth, and the two telescopes show the black hole as it appeared 470 million years after the Big Bang, researchers say. The black hole is an important discovery for science: it could help explain how supermassive black holes were able to reach such large masses within a short period of time after the Big Bang.

The black hole was “born” big

The team, led by study leader Bogdan, discovered that the newly discovered black hole was large from the beginning. The research group estimates its mass to be between ten and 100 million suns based on X-rays. It is particularly impressive that this mass roughly matches the mass of all stars in the UHZ1 galaxy, in which the black hole is located. The situation is quite different for younger black holes: they typically contain about a tenth the mass of stars in their host galaxy.

“There are physical limits to how fast black holes can grow once they form,” explains Andy Golding, one of the study’s authors. “But those born with greater density have a head start.” Golding continued: “It’s like planting a sapling that takes less time to grow into a full-grown tree than just Starting from seed.”

The first discovery of a “massive black hole”

“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 gas clouds,” says co-author Priyamvada Natarajan (Yale University). “For the first time, we see a brief period in which a supermassive black hole weighs as much as the stars in its galaxy before it recedes.” (unpaid bill)