James Webb Space Telescope Could Reveal Origin of Early Black Holes

The beginnings of our universe were a dark and mysterious time.

And with the James Webb Telescope, we’re about to see the darkest parts of the origin of the universe, in real time.

As the team overseeing Webb continues commissioning of its scientific instruments for future scientific missions, they are well aware of the new discoveries of modern astronomy. Namely, the recently released image of the black hole in the center of the milky way – which, for the Webb team, highlights the need for the space telescope to go back unspeakably far in time, to when the universe was around 700 million years old.

And, according to a recent blog post NASA’s James Webb Telescope may even reveal how puzzling “hyper-massive” black holes have appeared – which appear to be growing faster than they’ve had time to.

James Webb Space Telescope Could Reveal How Early Black Holes Formed So Quickly

“One of the most exciting The areas of discovery that Webb is about to open are the search for early black holes in the early universe,” said Robert Maiolino, a member of Webb’s near-infrared spectrometer (NIRSpec) science team, in the blog post, “These are the seeds of the much more massive black holes that astronomers have found in galactic nuclei. Most (probably all) galaxies host black holes at their centers, with masses ranging from millions to billions of times the mass of our Sun.”

“These supermassive black holes got so big both by gobbling up matter around them and also by merging smaller black holes,” Maiolino added. “An intriguing discovery was the discovery of hyper-massive black holes, with masses of billions of solar masses, already in place when the universe was only around 700 million years old, a small fraction of its age. 13.8 billion years current.”

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This has baffled scientists, because – when the universe was so young – there doesn’t seem to be enough time available in the lifespan of the cosmos to support the growth of such hyper-massive black holes. At least, according to theories considered standard today. “One possibility is that black holes, resulting from the death of the very first generation of stars in the early universe, accumulated matter at unusually high rates,” Maiolino said.

An illustration of the distribution of black hole populations based on formation events. Source: Roberto Maiolino / University of Cambridge / NASA

The James Webb Telescope is the perfect ‘time machine’

“Another scenario is that pristine, pristine gas clouds, not yet enriched by chemical elements heavier than helium, could directly collapse to form a black hole with a mass of a few hundred thousand pounds. solar masses, and subsequently accumulating material to evolve into the hypermassive black holes seen in later epochs,” Maiolino added. But it’s also possible that nuclear star clusters near the centers of baby galaxies generated black holes of intermediate mass.

This could have happened through the process of stellar collisions, or the crushing of two stellar-mass black holes. In the latter case, the excess mass observed from today would be due to the ongoing accretion of surrounding matter.

Webb is about to open up a whole new space of discovery in this field. It’s possible that the first seeds of black holes were originally formed in the “baby universe”, just a few million years after the big bang,” Maiolino said. For him, Webb is the “traveling machine over time” ideal for studying and analyzing primitive black. holes – since its high sensitivity will allow the detection of galaxies at unprecedented distances. Most unbelievably, given that the speed of light is finite, we will be gazing at these galaxies – and all primitive black holes in and around them – as they were in the incredibly distant past. All thanks to Webb, once his scientific missions were launched.


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