Quasars are supermassive black holes that feed at such a rate that their surroundings become bright and outshine their parent galaxies. But what happens inside these galaxies and how are they formed? Recent observations with the JWST Space Telescope allow astronomers to see the most distant quasars in the early Universe and gain new data about the galaxies in which they originated.
The two quasars being studied, J2236+0032 and J2255+0251, are 870 and 880 million light-years away, respectively. These are not the brightest quasars, but that’s what allowed the researchers to use JWST to measure stellar light in the surrounding galaxies. With this data, the team was able to estimate the stellar masses of the galaxies — 130 and 34 billion solar masses, respectively. The weight of the supermassive black holes in these galaxies is 1.4 billion and 200 million solar masses.
Interestingly, the ratio between the mass of the stars and the mass of the supermassive black hole in these galaxies corresponds to what we observe in the local universe. This puzzles scientists, as they do not know whether this relationship exists because of the same growth processes of stars and black holes or because they affect each other.
However, the very fact that this relationship occurs so early in the development of the Universe raises even more questions. How could supermassive black holes become so big in such a short period of time? Is there an even earlier period when this relationship was true? Or did they break down when the Universe was much younger?
The JWST observations are just the beginning of a deeper study of such distant sources. Ten more quasars are planned in the near future, and the team has been given time to study the parent galaxy J2236+0032 in detail.
A study describing these new discoveries was published in the journal Nature [source]. Scientists hope that further observations and data analysis will help solve more mysteries about the early Universe and the processes leading to the formation of quasars and black holes.