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Space Secret: 'Supermassive' Black Hole Breaks Record as Most Distant Ever Detected

Astronomers Discover Most Distant Black Hole Ever Found
Source: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/Ákos Bogdán; Infrared: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare & K. Arcand

The most distant black hole ever detected is shown here in x-rays and infrared images taken from the Chandra X-ray Observatory Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope. The purple parts of the image show x-rays from large amounts of hot gas in a cluster of smaller galaxies in front of the host galaxy UHZ1. The infrared image shows hundreds of galaxies in the cluster, along with a few foreground stars.

Nov. 13 2023, Published 9:03 a.m. ET

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Astronomers have detected an enormous black hole they say is the most distant one ever found.

Researchers say the discovery may help explain how the first "supermassive" black holes in the universe formed, reported.

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The supermassive black hole is in an early stage of growth never seen before, with a mass roughly equal to that of its host galaxy, according to a study published online Nov. 6 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Astronomy.

The discovery was made using two NASA telescopes, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the James Webb Space Telescope.

“We needed Webb to find this remarkably distant galaxy and Chandra to find its supermassive black hole,” Akos Bogdan of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & Smithsonian said in a NASA statement. Bogdan was the lead author of the study.

“We also took advantage of a cosmic magnifying glass that boosted the amount of light we detected,” he said. "This magnifying effect is known as gravitational lensing."

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The object can be seen in photos published by NASA of x-rays from Chandra and infrared data from Webb, as well as close-ups of the black hole host galaxy UHZ1.

Chandra detected "intense, superheated, X-ray emitting gas" from the growing supermassive black hole, which researchers determined was 13.2 billion light years away from Earth, behind a cluster of smaller galaxies.

The supermassive black hole began to form when the universe was young, only 470 million years after the big bang, the study said. To put that in perspective, the universe is currently estimated to be about 13.7 billion years old, according to NASA.

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The host galaxy, called "UHZ1," has a mass 140 million times that of the sun, according to

According to the study, the James Webb Space Telescope is "rapidly transforming our understanding" of the early stages of the universe because of its ability to detect faint, distant galaxies.

"Early studies are hinting at a higher-than-expected abundance of galaxies in the early Universe," the study states.

At the center of nearly every large galaxy sits a supermassive black hole, according to NASA. The one at the center of the Earth's Milky Way galaxy, Sagittarius A*, is 4 million times the mass of the sun.

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Supermassive black holes grow by feeding on smaller objects, like neutron stars and even other black holes.

Scientists believe it's possible they began with the collapse of supermassive stars, however their origins largely remain a mystery.


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