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The first direct measurement of the mass of a black hole 11 billion light-years away has surprised cosmologists

The first direct measurement of the mass of a black hole 11 billion light-years away has surprised cosmologists

The origin and growth of supermassive black holes is not yet well understood. However, we knew that in the vast majority of cases, there was a co-evolutionary relationship between this growth and the growth of massive galaxies. ESO's VLTI with the Gravity+ instrument, going further in the past, has made it possible to directly measure the mass of one of these black holes for the first time in a hitherto inaccessible region, the value of which at first glance does not fit into what the theory says. Proposed models.

To determine the mass of a celestial body it can be deduced from the orbital motion of a smaller body orbiting around the first. This is what Nobel laureates in physics Andrea Ghes and Reinhard Genzel said This was done by measuring the movements of stars in close orbit over the course of decades Giant black holeGiant black hole central l milky waymilky way.

We can play the same game with the stars and… cloudsclouds to GasGas About giant black holes in a large core GalaxiesGalaxiesBut the process becomes more difficult if we want to investigate LayersLayers to a lighta light Increasingly old UniverseUniverseThus observing galaxies farther and farther away. It takes strength to AccuracyAccuracy It is enough to distinguish and measure nearby stars and clouds in orbit SpeedsSpeeds.

For several years, the gravity tool ofEsoEso It made it possible to combine light collected by many TelescopesTelescopes of VLT in order to form a virtual telescope that can reach 200 meters in diameter. This is the famous technique Opening summaryOpening summary by InterferometryInterferometry.

An improved version of Gravity was recently used by a team fromAstronomy scientistsAstronomy scientists Led by the Max InstitutePlankPlank Extraterrestrial physics including the Lagrange Laboratory (UCA-OCA-CNRS) of the Côte d'Azur Observatory and other French CNRS laboratories. It has made the first direct measurement of the mass of an 11 billion massive black holeLight yearLight year Using the Gravity+ Record tool.

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Even James Webb did not have sufficient resolution to study the gas clouds orbiting the black hole at the galactic center SDSS J092034.17+065718.0. It also manifests itself in the form of a QuasarQuasar Gravity+ data indicate that its mass is about 320 million solar masses.

Did you know ?

In 1963, Martin Schmidt John Beverly Oak was published in the newspaper nature The results of the observations they made using the steganography technique in particular. They sought to identify the optical counterpart to a powerful radio source discovered a few years earlier by another astronomer, Alan Sandage. The source was named 3C 273, which means it was 273H Subject of the Third Cambridge Catalog listing radio sources.

Schmidt and Aoki's article was a bolt from the blue in astrophysics and cosmology. Spectroscopic analysis of the star they identified in the visible in Virgo constellation Hydrogen emission lines revealed strongly red. This means that what appeared as a star was located outside the Milky Way, but above all at a cosmic distance. In order to be observed from a distance, the object must be incredibly bright.

This discovery a The radio source is almost excellenta Quasar According to the name proposed in 1964 by an astrophysicist of Chinese origin Hong Yi QiuHe demonstrated that the universe was different in the past and was therefore evolving. This was not possible within the standard cosmological model of the time, according to which, although expanding, the universe should appear unchanged to all its observers, regardless of their location in time. On the other hand, the existence of 3C 273 was entirely consistent with the theory the great explosionBecause this predicted that if we observed objects at large enough distances, we would go further back into the past and history of the evolving universe. So it was natural that billions of light-years away we could observe a universe with a different appearance than it did just a few tens of millions of years ago, and thus in an environment close to the Milky Way.

We now know that quasar 3C 273 lies 2.44 billion light-years away inside a giant elliptical galaxy.

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This is a problem and calls into question our understanding of growth Supermassive black holesSupermassive black holes in'beingbeing young man.

We were actually surprised that supermassive black holes existed earlier than thought at the time, but the problem today with J0920 is that its black hole is about four times less massive than expected given the mass of its host galaxy, about 60 billion. Solar masses.

This result breaks the proportionality between the mass of the supermassive black hole and the mass of its host galaxy, which we know to be constant for almost all galaxies observed later in the history of the universe. This suggests a co-evolution between the mass of these giant black holes and the mass of their host galaxies. In the current case, this seems to indicate a retardation of the black hole's growth compared to the surrounding galaxy. Why ?

In the press release issued by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics accompanying the article by nature This discovery was assigned to the peak of the growth of the great structures of the Universe, which is called “cosmic noon” (Cosmic noon), of which there is an open access version arXiv, to'AstrophysicistAstrophysicist Jinyi Shangguan Outline of a possible answer:

The likely scenario for the evolution of this galaxy appears to be strong commentcomment Subordinate SupernovaeSupernovaeThese stellar explosions expel gas from the central regions before it can reach the black hole Galactic centerGalactic center. Only until the galaxy becomes massive enough to hold a reservoir of gas in its central regions will a black hole be able to start growing rapidly—and keep up with the overall growth of the galaxy—even against the action of a supernova. »

But this remains to be proven and it is necessary to know to what extent this scenario is an important dominant pattern for the co-evolution of other galaxies and their central black holes. Gravity+ is still being improvedInterferometerInterferometer the Very large telescopeVery large telescope (VLTI) from ESO. Ultimately, the same method of monitoring inInfraredInfrared It will be able to directly represent the masses of many supermassive black holes at the core of hundreds of distant galaxies and clarify our ideas and models about the co-evolution of black holes and galaxies during much of the universe's history.

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Supermassive black holes are very greedy. » All galaxies contain a supermassive black hole at their center, with a mass between a million and a few billion times the mass of the Sun. There is a proportional relationship between the mass of these black holes and the mass of the galaxy's bulge, indicating that star formation and black hole feeding occur simultaneously. Somehow, galaxies and their black holes grow in symbiosis. When the gas falls toward the center of the galaxy, the black hole swallows as much of it as possible, but the mass it can absorb is limited. Matter falling onto a black hole releases a large amount of energy, in the form of radiation and also in the form of kinetic energy. The core of the galaxy becomes active, either a Seyfert nucleus or a quasar. Winds and jets of plasma from the black hole confine the interstellar gas surrounding it. Flows of molecular gas have recently been discovered around active nuclei, which carry so much mass that they can have a significant impact on the evolution of the host galaxy, regulating or even shutting down the supply of gas needed for star formation. By spitting out their food, voracious black holes regulate star formation. We will discuss these phenomena in detail, perhaps at the origin of the proportionality between the masses of black holes and lamps. Françoise Coombs is an astronomer at the Paris Observatory in the Laboratory for the Study of Radiation and Matter in Astrophysics (LIRMA). His current field of research concerns galaxy formation and evolution. © École Normale Supérieure – PSL