NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has detected a 13.2-billion-year-old supermassive black that could change our understanding of the early universe.
Scientists also wonder how black holes formed so soon after the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago, since most voids appeared a billion years ago.
The massive abyss, the oldest ever detected, is at the center of the CEERS 1019 galaxy, dating back 570 million years to the birth of the universe.
A team led by the University of Texas at Austin has determined that the giant abyss is about nine million times the mass of our Sun and still growing — feeding on nearby interstellar gas and dust.
The previous host of the oldest supermassive black holes was discovered in 2021 and formed 13 billion years ago.
The massive abyss, the oldest ever detected, is at the center of the CEERS 1019 galaxy, 570 million years after the birth of the universe.
JWST has been surpassing its reputation since its launch in 2021 in the quest to understand the universe and our origins by examining every phase of cosmic history.
NASA telescopes have uncovered the universe’s oldest galaxies and ancient planets that didn’t exist because of their age.
And now, JWST can add the oldest known black hole to its list of discoveries.
The scientists were in the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) survey led by Steven Finkelstein when they received information about the massive void.
The black hole within CEERS 1019 is 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 the clockwork, which is more than a billion times the mass.
Black holes form when the center of a very massive star collapses in on itself, leaving a void where no light can enter or escape.
The project also discovered two more black holes in the galaxies CEERS 746 and CEERS 2782, which are slightly larger, weighing 10 million times the mass of the Sun.
Astronomers call the trio CEERS ‘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 other black holes in the galaxies CEERS 746 and CEERS 2782, which are slightly larger, weighing 10 million times the mass of the Sun.
The researchers shared in a press release, ‘This is critical because the universe was thrown into a thick ‘fog’ during this period, known as the Age of Renewal.
At this point in the universe, neutral gas has become ionized over millions of years, making it transparent to ultraviolet light.
What causes this period is unclear, though it’s something astronomers hope JWST will be able to answer.
Dale Kosevsky of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, said: ‘Researchers have known for a long time that there must have been low-mass black holes in the early universe.
‘Webb is the first observatory to capture them so clearly.
‘Now we think that low-mass black holes may be all over the place waiting to be discovered.’
‘Before the web, all three black holes were impossible to detect. ‘To other telescopes, these targets look like normal star-forming galaxies, not active supermassive black holes,’ added Finkelstein.
This was made possible by JWST’s sensitive spectra that allowed researchers to measure the precise distance, and therefore age, of galaxies in the early universe.
‘Until now, research into matter in the early universe has been largely theoretical,’ said Finkelstein.
‘With the web, not only can we see black holes and galaxies at extreme distances, we can now begin to measure them precisely. This is the extraordinary power of this telescope