'monster' black hole

 Astronomers have discovered a cluster of galaxies merging around a rare red quasar, a "monster" supermassive black hole that is greedily feeding on gas and other material.

An international team of scientists made the surprising discovery as they were using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to stare billions of years back in time. The finding represents an opportunity to observe how early galaxies merged forming the universe as we see it today. The blindingly bright quasar and extremely red quasar, known as SDSS J165202.64+172852.3, is about 11.5 billion years old and one of the most powerful ever seen from a such tremendous distance away, according to the researchers, who describe it as a black hole in formation. 

Earlier observations of this region of space using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini-North telescope in Hawaii had revealed the quasar and hinted at a galaxy in a transitional phase. But it was only further observation with JWST that revealed not one but at least three galaxies all swirling around the quasar. 

The JWST images of the region also showed that the three galaxies are moving incredibly quickly, suggesting the presence of a tremendous mass, which leads the team to think this could be the densest area of galaxy formation ever seen in the early universe.

"Even a dense knot of dark matter isn't sufficient to explain it," Dominika Wylezalek, an astronomer at Heidelberg University in Germany who led the research, said in a Webb statement. "We think we could be seeing a region where two massive halos of dark matter are merging together."

The team will now attempt to follow up this observation of this unexpected galaxy cluster hoping to decipher the secrets of how such dense groupings of galaxies formed in the early universe and how this process is affected by the supermassive black holes that lurk at their hearts.

The team's research is being published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and a preprint is also available on the paper repository arXiv