A new analysis of data from the James Webb Space Telescope suggests that black holes existed at the dawn of time, helping to create new stars and supercharging galaxy formation. This theory could challenge the current understanding that they formed after the first stars and galaxies emerged.
He study published in The letters from the astrophysical diary He says black holes may have accelerated the birth of new stars during the universe’s first 50 million years, a small part of its 13.8 billion year history.
“We know that these monstrous black holes exist in the center of galaxies near our Milky Way, but the big surprise now is that they were also present at the beginning of the universe and were almost like building blocks or seeds of the first galaxies,” said lead author Joseph Silk in a press release. Silk is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University and at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics, Sorbonne University.
The Webb telescope offered a better view of distant galaxies in the early universe, but there was a problem: Those galaxies appeared much brighter than scientists had predicted. Webb’s images also reveal an unusually high number of young stars and supermassive black holes.
Prevailing theories hold that black holes formed after the collapse of supermassive stars and that galaxies formed after the first stars in the dark early universe. However, the new analysis theorizes that black holes and galaxies coexisted and mutually influenced their growth during the first 100 million years. To put this in context, if the entire history of the universe were a 12-month calendar, it would be the first days of January.
Researchers say black hole flows crushed gas clouds and turned them into stars. “Otherwise, it is very difficult to understand where these bright galaxies come from because they are usually smaller in the early universe. Why should they be forming stars so quickly? Silk added.
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First uploaded on: 08/02/2024 at 17:55 IST