Space villain. Astronomers have found a giant black hole that ended star formation in the early Universe

Space villain. Astronomers have found a giant black hole that ended star formation in the early Universe

February 2, 09:06 Share:

Artist's illustration of gas flowing from quasar J2054−0005 (Photo: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

Researchers have discovered an ancient supermassive black hole, which, as it turned out, destroyed the star formation process in the galaxy in the early stages of the Universe.

The unique observation, made 900 million years after the Big Bang, supports theories that quasars — particularly bright black holes — put pressure on star formation by spewing out high-speed streams of gas.

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These streams of molecular gas, including oxygen and hydrogen, are the essential fuel for star formation. However, by emitting gas so quickly that stars cannot absorb it, quasars prevent star formation in the region.. The discovery confirms the important role of these black holes in the evolution of galaxies.

Previously, astronomers had assumed that the leakage of molecular gas plays a key role in the formation and evolution of galaxies in the early stages. Lead author of the study, Dragan Salak from Hokkaido University in Japan, notes: «Quasars are particularly energetic sources, so we expected that they would be able to generate powerful streams of energy.»

Black holes form from the collapse of giant stars and, as they grow, they absorb gas, dust, stars and even other black holes.. Quasars are the brightest of all such objects, emitting light trillions of times brighter than the brightest stars.. They are also capable of shedding matter at close to the speed of light.

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The observations were made using the ALMA telescope in Chile, tuned to the quasar J2054−0005, a billion years removed from the Big Bang.. Dragan Salak explains that they discovered the molecular gas during the absorption process, emphasizing the importance of this discovery: «We discovered the gas by seeing the 'shadow' it casts in front of a light source.»

The next step for astronomers will be to search for new quasars in the early Universe to better understand how these brilliant hearts of black holes formed the first galaxies.