Researchers have discovered the most distant active supermassive black hole to date thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope. According to Nasa, this black hole is at the centre of the galaxy CEERS 1019, which existed just over 570 million years after the big bang. According to an AP report, that’s 100 million years closer to the beginning of the cosmos than a black hole identified in 2021 by a Chinese team using a telescope in Chile. Interestingly, this supermassive black hole is less massive than any other yet identified in the early universe.
Nasa said that the researchers have easily “shaken out” two more black holes that are also on the smaller side, and existed 1 and 1.1 billion years after the big bang. The telescope also identified 11 galaxies that existed when the universe was 470 to 675 million years old. The evidence was provided by Webb’s Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey, led by Steven Finkelstein of the University of Texas at Austin. The program combines Webb’s highly detailed near- and mid-infrared images and data known as spectra, all of which were used to make these discoveries, a statement on the US space agency's website said.
What makes CEERS 1019 different is that is not only notable for how long ago it existed, but also how relatively little its black hole weighs. According to the Nasa statement, this black hole - which was discovered in February - clocks in at about 9 million solar masses, which is far less than other black holes that also existed in the early universe and were detected by other telescopes. For context: supermassive blackholes typically contain more than 1 billion times the mass of the Sun – and they are easier to detect because they are much brighter -- that's because they are actively “eating” matter, as the Nasa website explains.
According to Nasa, this black hole is more similar to the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, which is 4.6 million times the mass of the Sun. “Looking at this distant object with this telescope is a lot like looking at data from black holes that exist in galaxies near our own,” Rebecca Larson of the University of Texas at Austin, who led this discovery, says in the Nasa statement.
In another development, scientists - on 10 July - discovered the most reflective exoplanet. According to an AFP report, this strange planet has metal clouds that rain drops of titanium. The exoplanet, which is more than 260 light years from Earth, reflects 80 percent of the light from its host star, based on new observations from Europe's exoplanet-probing Cheops space telescope.
(With inputs from agencies)