Scientists spotted the oldest black hole of the universe: it turned out to be huge and devouring
The oldest supermassive black hole seen by scientists, located in the tiny galaxy GN-z11, is devouring the heart of its host galaxy and may trigger a cosmic cataclysm. Its study may provide important clues about the history of the formation and growth of the first supermassive black holes in the Universe.
This is stated in a study published in the journal Nature. The gluttonous black hole was observed by Cambridge University astrophysicist Roberto Maiolino and his colleagues using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
Light from the galaxy where the black hole is located began traveling to Earth when the Universe was only 400 million years old. This is what makes this supermassive black hole the oldest astronomers have ever seen.
According to the researchers, this black hole is several million times more massive than our Sun and is similar in size to the Sagittarius A* black hole, which is located in the heart of our Milky Way galaxy. They noted that they did not expect to find such a large object among the first generation of black holes in the early Universe as it takes at least a billion years to grow to this size.
Maiolino and his colleagues have two theories as to how the black hole could have grown so large so quickly. According to Inverse, the first theory states that it could have been formed by the compression of a giant cloud of gas under the influence of gravity and immediately become tens of thousands of times more massive than our Sun. This would significantly reduce the time it would take for a black hole to surpass the mass of the Sun by millions of times.
Another theory suggests that the first black holes were formed as a result of the collapse of the first generation of massive stars, and under such conditions, a black hole could grow to its current size in about a billion years by absorbing enough gas. But things could have gone even faster if the black hole consumed gas faster than astrophysicists expected.
This is exactly the kind of messy and extremely fast feast that Maiolino and colleagues saw when they observed the supermassive black hole at the heart of GN-z11. Given the black hole's appetite, the scientist suggests that it could indeed have been born from the remnants of a dead star when the universe was only a couple hundred million years old.
To find out for sure how this young but gigantic black hole was born, scientists need to look further into the past of the Universe and see even older supermassive black holes to reconstruct the history of their evolution.
At the moment, as the scientists noted, the black hole in the GN-z11 galaxy is doing everything possible to destroy its host. As the researchers explained, the faster the black hole eats, the more the center of the galaxy shines, formed by matter that heats up, heading for death in the black hole's mouth. And at the same time, the black hole forcefully repels the gas that is nearby. This way, it can eventually absorb all the suitable "food" in the galaxy, throwing a significant portion of the nutrient gas to an unreachable distance.
This will lead to the fact that the black hole can eventually cut itself off and leave the host galaxy without gas to form new ones.