So Many Young Black Holes Discovered by James Webb

Credit image and data: EIGER/FRESCO surveys
Credit image and data: EIGER/FRESCO surveys

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Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 16 August 2023, at 09:17 am PDT

Just years before the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launch, Christina Eilers organized an exclusive gathering for astronomers who specialized in studying the nascent universe. She hoped that JWST's future observations would spark a significant discourse among the scientific community. This telescope had the power to cast its vision deeper into space and time than any previous ones.

Eilers' foresight proved correct as JWST soared into space without difficulty and meticulously observed the ancient universe, sitting a million miles away. Around 150 astronomers attended Eilers' JWST "First Light" conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in mid-June. JWST had already started transmitting images to Earth in less than a year. As anticipated, this technological wonder was unraveling the tapestry of our knowledge of the universe's initial billion years.

Among the overload of presentations, a particular group of enigmatic entities took center stage – referred to as "hidden little monsters" or "little red dots." The data presented a unified description: as JWST trained its gaze upon youthful galaxies, appearing as faint crimson dots in the abyss of space, an astonishing revelation occurred – an unexpected number of these galaxies hosted mixing cyclones within their cores. In recent months, the astronomical community has been delighted and confused by an inundation of observations regarding these cosmic smudges.

It's believed that the turbulent behavior of galaxies is due to massive black holes, each with the weight of millions of suns, creating chaos within surrounding gas clouds. This discovery is both expected and confusing. The purpose of JWST was to uncover ancient entities, the precursors to billion-solar-mass black holes that appear very early on in the cosmic archives.

By studying these embryonic black holes, such as the recently discovered three record-setting young ones, scientists hope to understand the origins of the first supermassive black holes. They aim to determine whether their growth is rapid or always grand. However, JWST has revealed numerous young black holes, challenging their initial expectations.

As astronomers try to solve this puzzle, they are at the point of a paradigm shift, discovering remarkable black holes that could potentially change established theories regarding stars, galaxies, and beyond.

The research has been published on Arxiv.

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