“Baby Quasars”: New Type of Black Hole Discovered

Researchers were able to find the young quasars through a special project by the James Webb Space Telescope.JWST), which should study rare blue supermassive quasars and their environments. A cluster of small, faint red dots was spotted in the data, “which are the most distant ones — smaller versions of supermassive black holes found in the universe's distant past.” Jorid MethiResearch leader and astrophysicist at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA) in Klosterneuburg (Lower Austria) in a press release on this issue, which is now published in the special issue “The Astrophysical Journal”. study.

Black holes are extreme places in the universe. The mass in them is so compressed that nothing escapes their very strong attraction – not even light. Objects themselves are invisible. However, they reveal themselves through the material they swallow: when material falls into a black hole, it heats up to millions of degrees and then glows brightly. Telescopes can record this characteristic glow. Supermassive black holes can reach millions to billions of times the mass of our Sun. According to the researchers, this is what the discovered small red dots are all about – although they are still not large in size.

Fast-growing black holes

At the center of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole. But “Sagittarius A*” is comparable to a dormant volcano, and others grow very quickly, swallowing incredible amounts of material. Given the age of the universe in which these quasars were observed, some of them are very large. These “problematic quasars” can be seen as “five-year-old, but two-meter-tall children. “So something's not adding up,” Matthi explained.

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NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Matthee (ISTA), R. Mackenzie (ETH Zurich), D. Kashino (National Observatory of Japan), S. Lilly (ETH Zurich)

The tiny red dots are baby quasars

Although the maximum growth rate of quasars formed by exploding massive stars is known by the general laws of physics, some of them seem to have grown faster than they could. This is one of the great dilemmas in astronomy. Black holes may have formed in the early days of the universe, but also the other way around. According to the team, the current results lead us closer to resolving this question.

Early stage of development

By detecting some spectral lines in the deep red range of visible light emitted when hydrogen atoms are heated, it is true that the tiny red dots are supermassive black holes at an early stage of development. Broad line profiles indicate rapid movement of gas. “So these spectra suggest that we're dealing with a very small gas cloud that's moving very quickly and orbiting something very large, like a supermassive black hole,” the astrophysicist said.

With tens to a hundred million solar masses, the tiny red dots are like “baby quasars” compared to the blue, much brighter “problem quasars,” which are billions of times the mass of the Sun. At the same time, the spots appear red because dust obscures the black holes and reddens their light, at least until the outflow of gas penetrates the dust core and causes them to grow into giants. “Studying these baby quasars in more detail will allow us to better understand how problematic quasars form,” says Mathieu.

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