James Webb detects the most distant active black hole

The most distant active supermassive black hole is within the galaxy CEERS 1019, according to a study published Thursday from data collected by the James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has detected the most distant active supermassive black hole to date, within the galaxy CEERS 1019. Its description is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, in an article detailing, in addition , two other black holes and eleven galaxies, formed when the universe was between 470 and 675 million years old.

The data are from the CEERS (Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science Survey, survey of the first scientific results on cosmic evolution) project, led by Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin.

“Until now, research on objects in the early universe was largely theoretical,” says Finkelstein. “With Webb, not only can we see black holes and galaxies at extreme distances, we can now begin to measure them precisely. That’s the tremendous power of this telescope,” he adds.

According to the science team, CEERS 1019 is notable not only for how long ago it formed, but also for how relatively light its black hole weighs. About 9 million solar masses, much less than other black holes that also existed in the early universe and that were detected by other telescopes, explains a statement from the University of Texas.

These giants typically contain more than a billion times the mass of the sun, and they are easier to spot because they are so much brighter. However, the black hole inside CEERS 1019 is more like the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, at 4.6 million times the mass of the sun.

The team was not only able to tease out which emissions in the spectrum are coming from the black hole and which are from its host galaxy, but they were also able to determine how much gas the black hole is ingesting and establish its galaxy’s rate of star formation.

This galaxy is ingesting as much gas as it can while producing new stars. “A galaxy merger could be partly responsible for driving the activity in this galaxy’s black hole, and that could also lead to more star formation,” said Jeyhan Kartaltepe, a member of the CEERS team and the California Institute of Technology. Rochester in New York. However, it is still difficult to explain how it was formed so soon after the universe began.

As for the other two black holes, one of them is in the galaxy CEERS 2782, which existed only 1.1 billion years after the “big bang”, and the other in CEERS 746, formed a little earlier. Like the one in CEERS 1019, these two black holes are also “lightweights”, at least compared to previously known supermassives at these distances. They are only about 10 million times the mass of the sun.

“We now think that lower-mass black holes could be everywhere, waiting to be discovered,” summarizes Dale Kocevski of Colby College in Waterville, Maine. The researchers also identified 11 galaxies formed between 470 and 675 million years after the “big bang.”

These are rapidly forming stars, but they are not yet as chemically enriched as galaxies much closer to home. “This set, along with other distant galaxies we identify in the future, could change our understanding of star formation and galaxy evolution throughout cosmic history,” concludes Seiji Fujimoto of the University of Texas.

source: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/acdd54