About 13.8 billion years ago, the universe was born with a violent Big Bang. However, for the many millennia that followed, it was more of an interstellar nursery.
Our Milky Way was in its formative decades, baby stars were belching out their very first twinkles, and even black holes, which we now consider terrifying giants, were delicate eyelets just adjusting to their strength, likely to topple all asteroid Legos.
And to the surprise of scientists, according to a publication, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope unwittingly captured such a toddler in its tracks published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
His birthday is about 750 million years after the Big Bang and he is nicknamed GNz7q. adorable.
This fast-growing, soon-to-be-supermassive black hole was hidden in ancient Hubble data for years, despite living in one of the best-studied areas of the sky, an area covered by the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey-North. Then one day, GNz7q appeared as a mysterious red dot amidst the dark background of space.
“GNz7q is a unique discovery found right in the center of a famous, well-studied field of sky,” says Gabriel Brammer, astronomer at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute and co-author of the study. said in a statement. “It is unlikely,” he added, “that the discovery of GNz7q was just ‘bad luck’ within the relatively small GOODS-North study area, but rather that the prevalence of such sources may actually be significantly higher than previously thought.”
In other words, there could be plenty more baby black holes that have been accidentally overlooked, waiting to be found. GNz7q could also help scientists solve an even bigger cosmic task: deciphering the origin of supermassive black holes.
Connecting the cosmic points
“Supermassive” barely begins to explain how absolutely gigantic black holes can become. These blanks are millions times as big as our sun. For context: a million Earths could fit in our host star. I don’t even want to think how many could be nestled in a giant black hole.
Anyway, for that reason, a long-standing question for astronomers is one you might be pondering right now: How do some black holes get so big? Where does it all start?
“Understanding how supermassive black holes form and grow in the early Universe has become a major mystery,” Brammar said said in a statement.
GNz7q might help with that.
Brammar explains that scientists believe supermassive black holes originate in the dusty cores of Starburst galaxies, or galaxies that produce stars super fast. Then, while munching on all that starburst dust and gas, the abyss presumably gains a lot of heat and eventually emerges from its cocoon accompanied by a quasar, or glowing central ray.
It is believed that somewhere along the way these black holes will inexorably increase in size and morph into the spectacles we observe.
Although scientists have found both starburst galaxies and iridescent quasars in the past to support the beginning and end of the theory, the middle chapters of the story are based on computer simulations. An intermediary between the launch of the starburst galaxy and the quasar final had not been observed before – at least until GNz7q.
“GNz7q provides a direct link between these two rare populations and offers a new way to understand the rapid growth of supermassive black holes in the early days of the Universe,” says Seiji Fujimoto, astronomer at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute and lead author of the Work, said in a statement.
Despite living in an era known as the Cosmic Dawn, GNz7q was able to essentially explain how supermassive black holes that live in later epochs of the universe came into existence. NASA even calls the ancient chasm a potential “missing link” for the theory of the origin of supermassive black holes, largely because it is shares a lot of similarities with both quasars and starburst galaxies.
“The properties of the object across the electromagnetic spectrum are in excellent agreement with predictions from theoretical simulations,” said Fujimoto. For example, its redness in the GOODS North survey is likely the product of quasar light reddened by starburst dust.
NASA James Webb to study an ancient black hole
Hubble has been on a good track lately, having recently discovered things like the most distant single starand a .
And even outside of our trusty telescope, astronomical revelations seem to be increasing overall. For example, one team identified a candidate for theand it feels like we’re gaining new knowledge about .
This steady influx of sightings of interstellar objects is wonderful news for usand the GNz7q saga is no exception.
Webb is already ready to use his unparalleled infrared imaging skills to uncover the deepest and literally darkest mysteries of the universe. It has the ability to see far, far (far) into the past, just after the Big Bang, which is why it will be an excellent tool for studying Hubble’s newly discovered black hole in immense detail.
“With the James Webb Telescope, it will be possible to fully characterize these objects and study their evolution and underlying physics in much more detail,” said Fujimoto. Holes really are.”
Webb is now in orbit and is expected to return its first images this summer. And as we look at these much-anticipated images for the first time, we might want to remind ourselves of an important message conveyed by the unexpected discovery of GNz7q.
As Brammer puts it, “It shows that great discoveries can often be hidden right in front of you.”