NASA's JWST Discovers An Impossible Gargantuan Black Hole That Existed More Than 13 Billion Years Ago

The discovery of a supermassive black hole existing a mere 570 million years after the Big Bang has left scientists scratching their heads. 

A Baffling Discovery in the Early Universe

In a remarkable discovery that challenges our understanding of the universe, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has detected a supermassive black hole that existed a mere 570 million years after the Big Bang. This black hole, located at the center of an early galaxy named CEERS 1019, was actively growing and consuming gas about 13 billion years ago. This discovery is particularly puzzling to scientists as it is believed that supermassive black holes take time to form, and this one existed only 100 to 300 years after the first stars began to form in the nascent universe.

The Host Galaxy: CEERS 1019

CEERS 1019, the host galaxy of this black hole, was a unique entity in itself. It had a strange, primordial shape with three bright clumps surrounding the black hole and was actively creating new stars. JWST's infrared-detecting capabilities were instrumental in detecting the greatly redshifted light of CEERS 1019 and estimating the age of the black hole, making it the earliest-growing supermassive black hole discovered yet.

The galaxy field where CEERS 1019 was discovered. (Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Steve Finkelstein, Micaela Bagley, Rebecca Larson)

The Enigma of Early Universe Black Holes

The black hole weighed in at about 9 million solar masses, about twice the size of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, but still considered small. Astronomers have discovered other black holes from the early universe that weighed more than a billion times the mass of the sun. However, scientists still know little about how a dark soup of hydrogen and helium formed the first stars about 200 million years after the Big Bang, or how black holes in the early universe grew so large, so quickly.

The JWST's Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey

The JWST's Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey is seeking answers to these questions and uncovering new ones along the way. The project also recently reported the discovery of two younger black holes that existed 1 billion and 1.1 billion years after the Big Bang. Additionally, the team has studied a host of 11 old galaxies that existed when the universe was between 470 million and 675 million years old.

Implications for Understanding Star Formation and Galaxy Evolution

These discoveries might change our understanding of star formation and galaxy evolution throughout cosmic history. As Seiji Fujimoto, a postdoctoral researcher and Hubble fellow at the University of Texas-Austin, stated, "Webb was the first to detect some of these galaxies. This set, along with other distant galaxies we may identify in the future, might change our understanding of star formation and galaxy evolution throughout cosmic history."

In conclusion, the discovery of this early universe black hole by NASA's JWST is a testament to the telescope's capabilities and the potential it holds for future discoveries that could reshape our understanding of the universe.


Research paper