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Mysterious Black Hole at Dawn of History Weighs a Billion Suns: ScienceAlert

Mysterious Black Hole at Dawn of History Weighs a Billion Suns: ScienceAlert

A black hole has been discovered lurking at the cosmic dawn, and it’s so massive it can’t be easily explained. The black hole lies at the center of a galaxy called J1120+0641, and has a mass more than a billion suns.

There are larger black holes all around us today. The problem is when It is difficult to understand how the black hole was able to gain so much mass less than 770 million years after the Big Bang.

We’ve known about the galaxy and its crowded black hole for more than a decade, and scientists have had ideas about how it might have appeared. Now, notes using James Webb Scientists have rejected one of these concepts. By all accounts, J1120+0641 appears “shockingly normal,” leaving the door open to more exotic explanations for the black hole’s increased weight.

J1120+0641 detected Announced again in 2011For a few years it remained the most distant known quasar galaxy. It’s been a good few years actually. As far as we know, J1120+0641 was a strange object, and only one possible explanation for its size is still on the table.

Quasars are galaxies that contain a supermassive central black hole that is feeding at a tremendous rate. They are surrounded by a huge cloud of gas and dust, which is sucking them in as fast as it can. The friction and gravity around the black hole heats up the material, making it shine brightly.

But the speed at which a black hole can feed is not limitless. The maximum fixed rate is determined by edington limitThen the hot material shines very brightly The radiation pressure will exceed the force of gravity.pushing matter away and leaving nothing for the black hole to feed on.

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Now, black holes can briefly enter Eddington superaccretion, pushing themselves through that limit and swallowing as much matter as possible before the radiation pressure kicks in. This is one possible explanation for the black hole at the center of J1120+0641, and since we are finding them in larger numbers, there are other large black holes lurking in the early universe.

To search for signs of Eddington superaccretion, astronomers needed data with enough resolution to perform a detailed analysis of the galaxy’s light, looking for signatures associated with extreme processes. That’s why we needed the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the most powerful space telescope ever built, optimized for looking at those far reaches of space and time.

The James Webb Space Telescope observed the galaxy in early 2023, and a team led by astronomer Sarah Bosman of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany deconstructed the light it collected to catalog the properties of the material surrounding the black hole: a massive torus of dust on the galaxy’s outskirts, and a glowing disk swirling around it that feeds into the black hole.

This analysis reveals that the black hole is actually feeding very naturally — and nothing about its accretion looks significantly different from other, more recent quasar galaxies.

One possible explanation for the existence of these giant black holes is that extra dust was causing astronomers to overestimate their masses. However, there is no sign of additional dust either.

This means that J1120+0641 is what it looks like: a very ordinary quasar galaxy, with a black hole that is not gobbling up material at a very high rate. The black hole and its feeding method were relatively mature by the time we observed it, within a few hundred million years of the Big Bang.

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“Overall, the new observations add to the mystery: early quasars were shockingly normal.” Bosman says. “No matter what wavelengths we observe, quasars are almost identical in all eras of the universe.”

This means that Eddington superaccretion is not the answer to the puzzling growth of supermassive black holes at the dawn of time.

Another leading explanation is that black holes formed from fairly massive “seeds” to begin with. Rather than a slow, gradual process from something the size of a star, this theory suggests that black holes formed from the collapse of clumps of matter or even massive stars hundreds of thousands of times the mass of the Sun, giving their growth a head start.

As we find more and more of these giant monsters hiding in the mists of the early universe, this idea seems less outlandish, and more like the best possible explanation we have for this mysterious era in the history of our universe.

The research was published in Natural astronomy.