Baby quasars: Growing supermassive black holes | Science & Technology

The James Webb Space Telescope makes one of the most unexpected findings within its first year of service: A high number of faint little red dots in the distant Universe could change the way we understand the genesis of supermassive black holes. The research, led by Jorryt Matthee, Assistant Professor in astrophysics at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA), is now published in The Astrophysical Journal.

A bunch of little red dots found in a tiny region of our night sky might be an unexpected breakthrough for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) within its first year of service. These objects were indistinguishable from normal galaxies through the ‘eyes’ of the older Hubble Space Telescope. “Without having been developed for this specific purpose, the JWST helped us determine that faint little red dots-found very far away in the Universe’s distant past-are small versions of extremely massive black holes. These special objects could change the way we think about the genesis of black holes,” says Jorryt Matthee, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA), and lead author of the study. “The present findings could bring us one step closer to answering one of the greatest dilemmas in astronomy: According to the current models, some supermassive black holes in the early Universe have simply grown ‘too fast’. Then how did they form?”

The cosmic points of no return

Scientists have long considered black holes a mathematical curiosity until their existence became increasingly evident. These strange cosmic bottomless pits could have such compact masses and strong gravities that nothing can escape their force of attraction-they suck in anything, including cosmic dust, planets, and stars, and deform the space and time around them such that even light cannot escape. The general theory of relativity, published by Albert Einstein over a century ago, predicted that black holes could have any mass. Some of the most intriguing…

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