Spacecraft have discovered the most distant black hole

Using data from the James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have detected the most distant supermassive black hole ever found - located in a galaxy 13.1 billion lightyears from Earth.

The black hole resides in the center of galaxy UHZ1 and dates back to just 470 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only 3% of its current age. At that time, this black hole was already 10-100 million times the sun's mass - similar to the mass of its host galaxy.

The discovery was made by examining Webb's composite image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744. Among the thousands of galaxies pictured, UHZ1 appears as a tiny orange speck near the image's center. Chandra's X-ray data revealed the energetic glow of a feeding supermassive black hole at UHZ1's heart.

This provides unprecedented insight into early black hole formation and growth. Researchers are surprised to see objects this massive in the young universe, before galaxies had time to broadly coalesce.

"It's astonishing to find such a massive black hole when the universe was still in its infancy," said astronomer Andy Goulding. His team's findings are reported in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Further analysis suggests the growth rate of early black holes mirrors the rapid formation of stars in primitive galaxies. This supports models where black holes and galaxies evolve together through mergers and mutual feeding.

Webb's sensitivity and Chandra's high-energy vision are now opening new windows into the distant cosmos. Discoveries like UHZ1 will refine our understanding of how modern cosmic structures took shape after the Big Bang.

"With Webb, we're able to peer back in time to pinpoint the earliest supermassive black holes," Goulding said. "Together with Chandra, we can fully characterize these objects and their importance across cosmic history."

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