James Webb telescope detects supermassive black holes

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has discovered a large group of faint red spots in the distant universe that may be supermassive baby holes, an unexpected discovery that could change the way we understand the origins of these massive objects.

The research, led by Jorid Matthi, assistant professor of astrophysics at the Austrian Institute of Science and Technology (ISTA), was published this Thursday. The Astrophysical JournalIt explains that until the advent of the web, these types of objects were “indistinguishable.”

The new telescope – a hundred times more sensitive than Hubble – will be able to see the Universe more and better than its predecessors and even observe the first galaxies, thanks, above all, to the fact that it works in the infrared. Look for cool objects that are very far away or hidden behind dust.

In its first year of service, it observed unprecedented things, but this cluster of tiny red dots could be an “unexpected development,” according to the study.

Although it wasn't created, “JWST helped us determine that the dim red spots seen in the universe's distant past are miniature versions of supermassive black holes, which could change the way we understand the origin of black holes,” says Jorid Mathie, professor at ISTA and lead author of the study.

The discovery could bring us a little closer to the biggest dilemma in astronomy, by learning how supermassive black holes form.

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Supermassive black holes are the most enigmatic objects in space

These enigmatic objects have so much gravity that they absorb anything (cosmic dust, planets, and stars) while altering the space and time around them in such a way that even light cannot escape.

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General relativity, published by Albert Einstein over a century ago, predicts that black holes can have any mass.

Some of the most intriguing black holes are supermassive black holes (SMBHs), which can reach millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun.

Astrophysicists agree that an SMBH exists at the center of almost all massive galaxies. Evidence that Sagittarius A* is an SMBH with four million times the mass of the Sun at the center of our galaxy earned him the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics.

But not all SMBHs are the same. While Sagittarius A* has been compared to a dormant volcano, other SMBHs grow so fast that they encompass astronomical sizes, making them so luminous that they can be seen at the edge of an ever-expanding universe.

These SMBHs are called quasars and are among the brightest objects in the universe.

“One of the problems with quasars is that, given the age of the universe in which the quasars are observed, some of them appear to be disproportionately large and very massive. We call them problem quasars,” Matthi explains.

“Taking into account that quasars form from the explosions of massive stars—and we know their maximum growth rate from the general laws of physics—it seems that some of them grew faster than we thought.” It is possible. It's like watching a six-foot five-year-old. Something just didn't add up,” he explains.

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In the new study, Matthee and his team identified a number of objects that appear as tiny red dots in JWST images, and are not the giant cosmic monsters seen in much larger SMBHs.

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“While 'problem quasars' are blue, very bright, and reach billions of times the mass of the Sun, red spots are like 'baby quasars'. Their masses range from tens to a hundred million solar masses. In addition, they appear red because they are covered in dust. Dust hides black holes. Reddens the complexion,” he explains.

Mathie and his team believe that over time, “the flow of gas from the black holes will pierce the dust core and giants will form from these tiny red dots.”

Therefore, they suggest that the small red spots are smaller, redder versions of giant blue SMBHs in the pre-complex quasar phase.

“Studying the baby versions of very massive SMBHs in more detail will allow us to better understand how problematic quasars form,” he concludes.

With information from EFE

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