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Ancient galaxy harbors unexpectedly large supermassive black hole

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Supermassive Black Hole Discovered at Heart of Ancient Galaxy

Astronomers have discovered a supermassive black hole at the center of an ancient galaxy that is five times larger than expected for the number of stars it contains. The galaxy, known as GS-9209, is located 25 billion light-years from Earth, making it one of the most distant galaxies ever observed and recorded. Researchers at Edinburgh University used the James Webb space telescope (JWST) to observe the galaxy and reveal fresh details about its composition and history. The telescope, which is the most powerful ever built, showed that galaxies were growing “larger and earlier” than astronomers expected in the first billion years of the universe.

The Discovery of GS-9209

The GS-9209 galaxy was discovered in 2004 by Karina Caputi, a former PhD student at Edinburgh University who is now a professor of observational cosmology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. While GS-9209 has roughly as many stars as our home galaxy, with a combined mass equal to 40 billion suns, it is only one-tenth the size of the Milky Way. It is the earliest known example of a galaxy that has stopped forming stars, the researchers said.

The Role of Supermassive Black Holes in Stopping Star Formation

Supermassive black holes can shut down star formation because their growth releases huge quantities of high-energy radiation, which can heat up and drive gas out of galaxies. Galaxies need vast clouds of gas and dust to collapse under their own gravity, thereby creating new stars. The “very massive black hole” at the center of GS-9209 was a “big surprise” that lent weight to the theory that such enormous black holes are responsible for shutting down star formation in early galaxies. “All that energy spewing out from the black hole in the center of the galaxy would have seriously disrupted the whole galaxy, stopping gas from collapsing to form new stars,” said Dr. Adam Carnall, who led the effort.

Implications of the Discovery

The discovery of the supermassive black hole in GS-9209 provides researchers with the first detailed look at the properties of early galaxies. It charts in detail the history of GS-9209, which managed to form as many stars as our own Milky Way within just 800 billion years after the Big Bang.

Conclusion

The discovery of the supermassive black hole in GS-9209 at the center of an ancient galaxy sheds new light on the role of black holes in shutting down star formation in early galaxies. The use of the James Webb space telescope (JWST) allowed researchers at Edinburgh University to observe the galaxy and reveal fresh details about its composition and history. More details about the discovery are published in Nature.

FAQs

What is a supermassive black hole?

A supermassive black hole is a black hole with a mass between 1 million and 10 billion times that of our sun. They are thought to exist in the centers of most galaxies, including the Milky Way.

What is the James Webb space telescope?

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope set to launch in October 2021. It is the largest, most powerful, and most complex space telescope ever built and is designed to replace the Hubble Space Telescope.

What is the significance of the discovery of the supermassive black hole in GS-9209?

The discovery of the supermassive black hole in GS-9209 provides researchers with the first detailed look at the properties of early galaxies and sheds new light on the role of black holes in shutting down star formation in early galaxies.

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