A Black Hole – A Million Times As Bright As Our Sun – Offers Potential Clue to Reionization of Universe

Concept Black Hole Animation

Artist’s illustration of a black hole.

About 400,000 years after the universe was created began a period called “The Epoch of Reionization.”

During this time, the once hotter universe began to cool and matter clumped together, forming the first stars and galaxies. As these stars and galaxies emerged, their energy heated the surrounding environment, reionizing some of the remaining hydrogen in the universe.

The universe’s reionization is well known, but determining how it happened has been tricky. To learn more, astronomers have peered beyond our Milky Way galaxy for clues. In a new study, astronomers at the University of Iowa identified a source in a suite of galaxies called Lyman continuum galaxies that may hold clues about how the universe was reionized.

In the study, the Iowa astronomers identified a black hole, a million times as bright as our sun, that may have been similar to the sources that powered the universe’s reionization. That black hole, the astronomers report from observations made in February 2021 with NASA’s flagship Chandra X-ray observatory, is powerful enough to punch channels in its respective galaxy, allowing ultraviolet photons to escape and be observed.

“The implication is that outflows from black holes may be important to enable escape of the ultraviolet radiation from galaxies that reionized the intergalactic medium,” says Phil Kaaret, professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the study’s corresponding author.

“We can’t yet see the sources that actually powered the universe’s reionization because they are too far away,” Kaaret says. “We looked at a nearby galaxy with properties similar to the galaxies that formed in the early universe. One of the primary reasons that the James Webb Space Telescope was built was to try to see the galaxies hosting the sources that actually powered the universe’s reionization.”

Reference: “Rapid turn-on of a luminous X-ray source in the candidate Lyman continuum emitting galaxy Tol 0440-381” by P Kaaret, J Bluem and A H Prestwich, 14 December 2021, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
DOI: 10.1093/mnrasl/slab127

Jesse Bluem, a graduate research assistant at Iowa, and Andrea Prestwich, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, are co-authors.

[Editor’s Note: A misspelling of “reionization” was corrected in the headline after publication.]

9 Comments on "A Black Hole – A Million Times As Bright As Our Sun – Offers Potential Clue to Reionization of Universe"

  1. From the title, “… Potential Clue to Reinonization …”

    That should be “Reionization” or “Re-ionization.”

    Didn’t Spellcheck flag that?

    • Yeah, that should have been caught before publication. Although the one spell check dictionary also didn’t know the correct spelling.

      Thanks for the note, it has been fixed.

  2. Heywood Jablome | January 11, 2022 at 8:27 am | Reply

    “We can’t yet see the sources that actually powered the universe’s reionization because they are too far away,” Kaaret says.”
    Maybe just look at how every-single thing in all existence organizes and reorganized in spiral form motion inward and outward. Foolish ignorant money and time waster know-nothings!!

  3. Bradford G Smith | January 12, 2022 at 9:37 am | Reply

    Spell check! “Reinonization” Jeez!

  4. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
    This article is a load of nonsense I’m afraid to say.
    The earth as we know it is 6000 years old.
    Just read the Bible. Then all will make sense.

  5. Great article. For me this seems to solidify how my God created the heavens and the earth!
    I appreciate the work put in on this article. Keep working hard and informing us all of your findings. It was a great read!

  6. Fascinating information about our universe is discovered daily.I truly hope to still be alive when some of great issues are brought to light.

  7. I believe in God and all but to a certain point I think something much greater than God something we might not ever figure out created this universe and all these black holes showing up..

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