JWST spots giant black holes all over the early universe

By | August 21, 2023

Charlie Wood writes:

Years before she was even sure the James Webb Space Telescope would successfully launch, Christina Eilers started planning a conference for astronomers specializing in the early universe. She knew that if — preferably, when — JWST started making observations, she and her colleagues would have a lot to talk about. Like a time machine, the telescope could see farther away and farther into the past than any previous instrument.

Fortunately for Eilers (and the rest of the astronomical community), her planning was not for naught: JWST launched and deployed without a hitch, then started scrutinizing the early universe in earnest from its perch in space a million miles away.

In mid-June, about 150 astronomers gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Eilers’ JWST “First Light” conference. Not quite a year had passed since JWST started sending images back to Earth. And just as Eilers had anticipated, the telescope was already reshaping astronomers’ understanding of the cosmos’s first billion years.

One set of enigmatic objects stood out in the myriad presentations. Some astronomers called them “hidden little monsters.” To others, they were “little red dots.” But whatever their name, the data was clear: When JWST stares at young galaxies — which appear as mere red specks in the darkness — it sees a surprising number with cyclones churning in their centers. [Continue reading…]

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