A gigantic black hole from the early days of the universe has set a new record for being the first we’ve ever observed.
Scientists identified it in a galaxy called UHZ1 only 470 million years after the Big Bang when the universe was very young. This black hole is so young it is growing along with the galaxy around it, which is something we’ve never seen before, as reported by Science Alert.
This black hole is incredibly distant, and its light has traveled for 13.2 billion years to reach us. To locate it, scientists had to use the Chandra X-ray observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and a little trick involving relativity.
Supermassive black hole formation
A team led by astrophysicist Akos Bogdan from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) made this new discovery. It provides significant clues as to how supermassive black holes are formed.
They seem to begin as massive clouds of gas collapsing under their own gravity only to turn into extremely dense objects. Over time, these get bigger and bigger.
Astrophysicist Andy Goulding from Princeton University explains there are limits to how fast black holes can expand once they’re established. However, when black holes are born with more mass, they have an advantage.
This is similar to planting a small tree sapling, which can grow into a full-size tree much faster than starting off as a tiny seed, Goulding further explained.
Supermassive black holes are incredibly gigantic. For instance, the one called Sagittarius A* at the center of our Milky Way is a colossal 4.3 million times the mass of the Sun. However, this is considered small when it comes to supermassive black holes.
Scientists are still not entirely sure how black holes become so tremendously massive. However, one thing is quite clear. As reported by Science Alert, there are namely a lot more of them in the early universe than we originally thought, and they’re much too massive to have grown from something as small as a star, especially so soon after the Big Bang.
Use of ‘gravitational lens’ to find UHZ1 galaxy and black hole
To understand the progression, we need to observe and draw conclusions from what we see. However, the challenge lies in the fact that the Cosmic Dawn, which encompasses the first billion years after the Big Bang, is extremely distant.
The light from this era is very faint and appears quite red because it’s stretched by the expanding space-time, making it hard to study.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the strongest space telescope ever constructed, and it is designed to observe the universe in that red light. However, even with its power, it is not enough, according to Science Alert.
To find UHZ1, Bogdan and his team relied on a different aspect of physics known as a gravitational lens. These occur when an immense amount of gravity, such as that of a cluster of galaxies, causes space-time to bend around it.
When light travels through this curved space-time from far-off parts of the universe, it can get amplified, duplicated, and distorted.