The James Webb Space Telescope peered into time and space – this is how scientists from two NASA teams commented on the results of studies of the exceptionally bright galaxy GN-z11, which existed when our universe was still a cosmic “baby” and was only 430 million years old – compared to the current age of 13.8 billion. GN-z11 was first discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope; and Webb also found a supermassive black hole, and also the most distant black hole currently known. Researchers from the Cavendish Laboratory and the Cambridge Institute of Cosmology explained it this way.

We have seen extremely dense gas that is often found near supermassive black holes. These were the first clear signs that GN-z11 contains a black hole that is absorbing matter. Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrometer camera has detected an extended component that tracks the parent galaxy and a central, compact source whose colors match the colors of the accretion disk surrounding the black hole.

All this, combined with the signs of ionized chemical elements that are usually observed near the accretion disks of supermassive black holes, and powerful wind shocks formed in the process of their intensive growth, allowed scientists to conclude that GN-z11 contains just such a black hole of 2 million solar masses, in a very active phase of absorption of matter – which is why it is so bright.

Another group of astronomers, using the already mentioned data from Webb’s near-infrared spectrometer, detected a gaseous clump of helium in the halo around GN-z11 – and saw nothing but helium. According to scientists, this indicates the “virginity of the clump”, and, according to the theory of Population III – a hypothetical population of extremely massive and hot stars that arose at the very beginning of the Universe, immediately after the Big Bang – these are the pockets of pristine gas that should remain in their halos. The expected feature of Population III stars is the presence of ionized helium and the absence of chemical elements heavier than helium, so it is possible that the theory of primordial stars will soon move into practice.

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