Pitt Researcher Part of Astronomy Team Published in Nature for Their Findings on Small Galaxies and Black Holes

A research team in conjunction with the James Webb Space Telescope have just published their findings on the smallest galaxies in the early universe.

Rachel Bezanson is an associate professor of physics and astronomy in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and member of the UNCOVER program. The program aims to “identify first-light galaxies…and characterizing the ultra-low luminosity galaxies that drive reionization.”

The research team, co-led by Rachel, was able to show that these small galaxies had emitted enough photons for reionization. Reionization is a process that allowed light to travel through space. It wasn’t until approximately 500-900 million years after the big bang that the universe was no longer in darkness.

The results of their research have been published in the journal, Nature as well as NASA’s website.

Bezanson and the team of astronomers also detected a very red, gravitational lensed black hole in the early universe. They were able to detect it using images from the UNCOVER program. From there they measured its mass and discovered it was significantly more massive compared to its host galaxy than what was seen in other local examples.

"Analysis of the object's colors indicated that it was not a typical star-forming galaxy," Bezanson said. "Together with its compact size, it became evident this was likely a supermassive black hole, although it was still different from other quasars found at those early times."

The international research team’s findings on the red object were also published in the journal, Nature, on February 14th of this year.