July 20, 2024

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NASA’s Hubble archives reveal a mysterious ancestor of supermassive black holes


Illustration of what GNz7q might once have looked like. Although extremely rare, examples of both dusty starburst galaxies and luminous quasars have been discovered in the early universe. The team believes that GNz7q could be the “missing link” between these two classes of organisms.

ESA/Hubble, N. Bartmann

About 13.8 billion years ago, the universe was born with a fierce Big Bang. However, for the following millennia, it was more than an interstellar daycare.

Our Milky Way was in its formative decades, young stars were belching their first sparks, and even the black holes we now see as frightening giants were weak holes to get used to their power, perhaps knocking over all LEGO asteroids.

To the scientists’ surprise, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope detected such a small void in its path, according to a research paper. Published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Its birthday is about 750 million years after the Big Bang, and it is nicknamed GNz7q. lovable.

For years, this fast-growing, soon-to-be supermassive black hole was hidden in ancient Hubble data despite living in one of the best-studied regions of the sky, covered by the Great Observations Origins Deep Survey-North. Then, one day, GNz7q appeared as a mysterious red dot amid the dark background of space.


The black hole can be seen as a bright red dot in the Hubble GOODS-North Survey of the Sky.

NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, P. Oesch, R. Bouwens, I. Lbé, and the science team S. Fujimoto et al.

“GNz7q is a unique discovery found at the center of a famous and well-studied sky field,” Gabriel Brammer, an astronomer from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and co-author of the study, said. He said in a statement. “It is unlikely that the detection of GNz7q in the relatively small GOODS-North survey region was just ‘stupid luck,’ but rather that the prevalence of such sources may actually be much higher than previously thought,” he added.

In other words, there may be more tiny black holes that have been mistakenly overlooked and just waiting to be found. GNz7q may also help scientists achieve a larger cosmic task: deciphering the origin of supermassive black holes.

Connect the Cosmic Dots

“Supermassive mass” hardly begins to explain how supermassive black holes could ever happen. these spaces Millions times the size of our sun. For context, a million Earths could fit into our host star. I don’t even want to think about how many could nest inside a supermassive black hole.

Anyway, because of this, the long-awaited question for astronomers is one you might be thinking about right now: How do some black holes get so big? Where does all this begin?

“Understanding how supermassive black holes formed and grew in the early universe has become a huge mystery,” Bramar said. He said in a statement.

GNz7q may be able to help with this.

Bramar explains that scientists believe that supermassive black holes originate in dust cores star galaxiesOr galaxies that eject stars very quickly. Then, while chomping on all the stellar dust and gases, the abyss is supposed to gain a lot of heat and eventually emerge from its cocoon accompanied by a quasar, or luminous central jet.

Somewhere along the way, these black holes are thought to grow in size relentlessly and transform into the glasses we observe.

However, although scientists have found both starburst galaxies and dazzling quasars in the past to reinforce the beginning and end of the theory, the middle chapters of the story are based on computer simulations. An intermediate between the start of a starburst galaxy and the end of a quasar had not been observed before – until GNz7q, that is.

“GNz7q provides a direct link between these two rare populations and provides a new way to understand the rapid growth of supermassive black holes in the early days of the universe,” said Seiji Fujimoto, an astronomer at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the paper, He said in a statement.


Artist’s concept of a galaxy with a bright quasar star at its center.

NASA and European Space Agency J. Olmsted (STScI)

In essence, although it lived during an era known as the cosmic dawn, GNz7q could finally explain how the supermassive black holes that existed in later ages of the universe appeared. NASA even describes the ancient chasm as a possible “missing link” for the theory of the origin of the supermassive black hole, especially because it also It displays many similarities with both quasars and stellar galaxies.

“The properties of the object across the electromagnetic spectrum are in excellent agreement with the predictions of theoretical simulations,” Fujimoto said. For example, its reddening in the GOODS-North survey is likely caused by quasar light reddened by stellar dust.

NASA James Webb to study an ancient black hole

Hubble has been rolling around lately, having recently spotted things like the farthest single star Humanity has ever set its eyes and Comet fascinates with ‘dirty snowball’ nucleus.

And even apart from our trusted telescope, astronomy discoveries seem to be on the increase as a whole. One team, for example, has located a candidate for The farthest galaxy we’ve ever seenWe seem to be gaining new knowledge about it outer planets per day.

This constant stream of interstellar object viewing is all great news NASA’s James Webb Space Telescopeand the GNz7q epic is no exception.

Webb is already preparing to use his unprecedented capabilities in infrared imaging to reveal literally the deepest and darkest secrets of the universe. It has the ability to look into the past, right after the Big Bang, which is why it will be an excellent tool for studying Hubble’s newly discovered black hole in tremendous detail.


An artist depicts the James Webb Space Telescope as it flies through space.

Adriana Manrique Gutierrez, NASA Animation

“Full characterization and verification of their evolution and basic physics in much greater detail will be possible with the James Webb Telescope,” Fujimoto said. “Once the regular start-up, Webb will have the ability to determine how common these fast-growing black holes really are.”

Now in orbit, Webb is expected to send out its first images this summer. And when we get our first look at those long-awaited images, we may want to remember an important message given to us by the unexpected discovery of GNz7q.

As Brammer said, “It shows that great discoveries can often be hidden in front of you.”

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