July 25, 2024

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J1120, a mature quasar in the early universe – how is that possible?

J1120, a mature quasar in the early universe – how is that possible?

An impression of the supermassive black hole in a quasar. Credit: T. Müller/MPIA

Observations by the Webb Space Telescope show that mature quasars, galaxies containing an active supermassive black hole at their center, existed in the early universe. “Adult” means that they are already fully grown and behave just like the quasars closest to Earth. The best known example of such a mature quasar in the early universe is J1120+0641, which has long been known as the most distant quasar. It was examined using the MIRI mid-infrared web instrument by a team of astronomers led by Sarah Bosman of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA). J1120 actually existed when the universe was only 760 million years old, and its redshift was z∼7. The age of the universe at that time was only 5% of its current age. Astronomers were able to create a spectrum of quasars very similar to those found in quasars in later periods of the universe. The black hole at the heart of J1120 actually has a mass of 1.5 billion solar masses – for comparison: the mass of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is only 4 million solar masses. It is believed that the seed of this truly massive black hole was not created like the rest of the first generation of stars, Population III stars, but was created by the direct collapse or collapse of massive clouds of gas.

More information about the research on J1120 can be found in the professional article by Sarah E. Bosman et al., A mature quasar at cosmic dawn detected by rest frame infrared spectroscopy at the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)., Nature astronomy (2024).

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source: Phys.org.