Early in the history of our universe, a strange object was formed. By studying the object in archival data, scientists now find that it appears to be somewhere between a galaxy and a quasar (distant objects driven by black holes a billion times as massive as our sun).
Scientists examining the object in a new study have termed the object, called GNz7q, “the ancestor of a supermassive black hole”, as it was created only 750 million years after the Big Bang took place, triggering our universe 13.8 billion years ago since.
“The discovered object connects two rare populations of celestial bodies, namely dusty star eruptions and luminous quasars, thus providing a new way to understand the rapid growth of supermassive black holes in the early universe,” leads study author Seiji Fujimoto, a postdoc fellow based . at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, states in a university statement.
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The team discovered the object in archival data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope through a project called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), which connects Hubble and other space observatories to study the deep universe, according to the Space Telescope Research Institute in Baltimore, which operates Hubble.
It is common for new discoveries to be made from such archival data revisited with the latest techniques and models, but the strange object is still remarkable because it is in a particularly well-studied part of the sky called GOODS North.
“GNz7q is a unique discovery found right in the center of a famous, well-studied celestial field – it shows that great discoveries can often be hidden right in front of you,” said Gabriel Brammer, co-author of the new research and astronomer at Niels Bohr The Institute at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement. “It is unlikely that the discovery of GNz7q within the relatively small GOODS-North study area was merely ‘stupid luck’, but rather that the prevalence of such sources may in fact be significantly higher than previously thought.”
GNz7q is located in an area of intense starbursts in a galaxy that forms stars about 1,600 times faster than our own galaxy, the Milky Way. As these stars form, they generate cosmic dust, which causes the galaxy to glow in infrared light – so bright that its dust makes it more luminous than any other known object in its era, the researchers said in the same statement.
Scientists believe that GNz7q represents a transitional phase that has not yet been discovered so early in the history of the universe. The origin of the object can tell scientists more about how supermassive black holes evolve, as it may reveal more about how the interaction between gas and dust can affect the growth of a black hole, the team suggested.
“Although luminous quasars had already been found even in the earliest epochs of the universe, the transitional phase of rapid growth of both the black hole and its star-bursting host had not been found in similar epochs,” said Brammer at the University of Copenhagen. announcement.
Given that GNz7q’s properties fit well with the theory, Brammer added, indications are “GNz7q is the first example of the transition, rapid growth phase of black holes at the dusty star core, an ancestor of the later supermassive black hole.”
The team plans to search other datasets from high-resolution studies, as well as upcoming information from the James Webb Space Telescope, which should see the first light around June.
“Complete characterization of these objects and study of their evolution and underlying physics in much greater detail will be possible with the James Webb Telescope. Once Webb is in regular operation, Webb will have the power to determine how common these fast-growing black holes are. really is, “Fujimoto said.
A study based on the research was published in Nature on Wednesday (April 13).