James Webb finds extremely red black hole that is 40 million times larger than the Sun

February 28, 2024  22:33

Astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have discovered an extremely red supermassive black hole that is 40 million times the size of the Sun and is growing rapidly. The astronomers' study was published in the scientific journal Nature.

The red hue of a black hole, as it appears about 700 million years after the Big Bang, is a result of the expansion of the Universe. As the Universe expands in all directions, the light coming toward us takes on a red tint, and in this case, the red and refracted light indicates a layer of dense gas and dust covering the black hole.

By studying JWST data, a team led by scientists Lukas Furtak and Adi Zitrin of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev was also able to determine the mass of this black hole: it is about 40 million times the mass of the Sun and is unexpectedly large compared to the galaxy in which it located.

The team also found that the supermassive black hole, located about 12.9 billion light-years from Earth, is rapidly feeding on the gas and dust around it, meaning it is growing.

Three red dots

“We were very excited when JWST began sending its first data. We were scanning data for the UNCOVER program and three very compact but red glowing objects stood out and caught our attention. Their “red dot” appearance immediately led us to suspect that this was a quasar-like object,” said Lukas Furtaki.

Quasars form when such supermassive black holes are surrounded by an abundance of matter. This material forms a disk of gas and dust, called an accretion disk, and gradually feeds the black hole. The black hole's powerful gravitational pull stirs this matter, releasing intense heat, causing it to glow.

red black hole.JPG (73 KB)

In addition, the matter that does not fall into the supermassive black hole is directed to the poles of the cosmic giant. In these regions, particles are accelerated to near the speed of light in the form of highly collimated jets. When these relativistic jets explode, the eruptions are accompanied by bright electromagnetic emissions.

As a result of these phenomena, quasars, powered by supermassive black holes in active galactic nuclei, are often so bright that the light they emit often exceeds the combined light of every star in the surrounding galaxy. Because of the enormous amount of radiation emitted around this particular supermassive black hole, it appears as a small dot in the JWST data.

“Analysis of the object's color showed that this is not a typical star-forming galaxy. This further confirmed the hypothesis of a supermassive black hole,” said University of Pittsburgh researcher Rachel Bezanson, co-author of the UNCOVER project. “Thanks to its compact size, it became clear that it was most likely a supermassive black hole, even though it is a supermassive black hole. still different at such early times from other discovered quasars."

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