This compass image shows a deep galaxy field imaged by Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) for the ASPIRE program. The field includes a quasar, called J0305-3150, whose brightness outshines its host galaxy. At the bottom right are compass arrows indicating the orientation of the image on the sky. Below the image is a color key showing which NIRCam filters were used to create the image and which visible-light color is assigned to each filter.
Another part of the study investigates the properties of eight quasars in the young universe. The team confirmed that their central black holes, which existed less than a billion years after the big bang, range in mass from 600 million to 2 billion times the mass of our Sun. Astronomers continue seeking evidence to explain how these black holes could grow so large so fast.
“To form these supermassive black holes in such a short time, two criteria must be satisfied. First, you need to start growing from a massive ‘seed’ black hole. Second, even if this seed starts with a mass equivalent to a thousand Suns, it still needs to accrete a million times more matter at the maximum possible rate for its entire lifetime,” explained Wang.
“These unprecedented observations are providing important clues about how black holes are assembled. We have learned that these black holes are situated in massive young galaxies that provide the reservoir of fuel for their growth,” said Jinyi Yang of the University of Arizona, who is leading the study of black holes with ASPIRE.
Webb also provided the best evidence yet of how early supermassive black holes potentially regulate the formation of stars in their galaxies. While supermassive black holes accrete matter, they also can power tremendous outflows of material. These winds can extend far beyond the black hole itself, on a galactic scale, and can have a significant impact on the formation of stars.
“Strong winds from black holes can suppress the formation of stars in the host galaxy. Such winds have been observed in the nearby universe but have never been directly observed in the Epoch of Reionization,” said Yang. “The scale of the wind is related to the structure of the quasar. In the Webb observations, we are seeing that such winds existed in the early universe.”
These results were published in two papers in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on June 29.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
Ann Jenkins / Christine Pulliam
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
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