An artist's rendering of what a future telescope might see when looking into the black hole at the heart of galaxy M87. Via wikimedia.org
The oldest black hole ever observed It's only 13 billion years old yet: it was discovered thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency, and dates back only 400 million years after the Big Bang.
This discovery, which was published in the journal Nature, was made by an international team of researchers led by Italian Roberto Maiolino from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
The observed object is surprisingly massive for the early universe, with a mass of a few million times the mass of our Sun, and thus challenges current theories about how black holes form and grow.
In fact, astronomers believe that the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies have grown to their current size over billions of years. But here's the problem: the universe wasn't yet a billion years old when this black hole was already fully formed.
Like all black holes, the newly discovered hole devours material from its host galaxy to fuel its growth. However, the hero of this study seems to consume the material much more voraciously than his “relatives” born in later eras.
The young host galaxy, called GN-z11, shines so brightly because of its “active” host.
GN-z11 is a compact galaxy, but the black hole appears to be stunting its growth, gobbling up a lot of gas in a process that will eventually kill the black hole itself by eliminating its “food” source.
Researchers now hope to use future James Webb Space Telescope observations to search for tiny “seeds” of black holes, which could shed light on their formation processes. “There are several observing programs using JWST that aim to find older black holes,” Maiolino comments again: “It is likely that in the coming years, and perhaps even in the coming months, objects larger than the ones that have just been discovered will be discovered.”
With information from ansa.it
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