The James Webb Space Telescope has made a remarkable discovery, detecting the most distant active supermassive black hole to date. Using the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey, led by Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin, researchers identified a galaxy named CEERS 1019 that existed just over 570 million years after the Big Bang. What makes this finding particularly intriguing is that the supermassive black hole within CEERS 1019 is significantly less massive than any other black hole observed in the early universe.
The CEERS 1019 Survey
The supermassive black hole in CEERS 1019 has a weight of approximately 9 million solar masses, much smaller than the behemoth black holes previously detected in the early universe. These larger black holes typically have more than a billion times the mass of the Sun and are easier to detect due to their brightness resulting from matter being drawn toward them. In contrast, the supermassive black hole in CEERS 1019 resembles the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, which is about 4.6 million times the mass of the Sun and not as bright as the more massive counterparts.
The CEERS Survey, utilizing Webb’s highly detailed near- and mid-infrared images and spectra, also unveiled the presence of two additional smaller black holes. One was found within galaxy CEERS 2782, which existed 1.1 billion years after the Big Bang, while the other was in galaxy CEERS 746, which existed 1 billion years after the Big Bang. Both these black holes are also considered lightweights, measuring around 10 million times the mass of the Sun.
Additionally, the survey identified eleven galaxies that existed when the universe was 470 to 675 million years old. These distant galaxies are actively forming stars and provide valuable insights into star formation and galaxy evolution during the early stages of cosmic history.
Impressive Qualities of James Webb
The Webb telescope’s exceptional sensitivity and detailed spectra have allowed researchers to measure the precise distances and ages of these galaxies, providing a wealth of data and enhancing our understanding of the early universe. The CEERS Survey’s initial findings, including the discoveries of black holes and distant galaxies, have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, setting the stage for further exploration and potential revisions to existing models of black hole growth and the evolution of the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope has brought forth a new era of astronomical observations, offering unprecedented views of the cosmos. As scientists continue to delve into the data obtained by Webb, there is an anticipation that even more groundbreaking discoveries await, reshaping our understanding of the universe and its earliest stages.