As Hubble and James Webb probe deeper into the early universe, they are finding galaxies and even galaxy clusters orbiting quasars driven by their central super massive black holes much earlier than expected. Here’s an example. At the center of this Hubble image, taken in visible and near-infrared light, is a distant quasar with a SMBH at its center. The light from this object took 11.6 billion years to get here. This quasar is one of the most powerful known galactic nuclei that’s been seen at such an extreme distance. The Hubble team found that the quasar has a tidal tail indicating that interactions with other galaxies are involved.
To investigate the movement of the gas, dust and stellar material in the galaxy around the quasar, the research team used Webb’s Near Infrared Spectrograph. Its data indicates that there are at least three massive galaxies orbiting the quasar. This makes the quasar a part of a dense grouping of galaxy formation. Webb, with its spectrograph, used light from doubly ionized oxygen atoms to measure the motions of all this surrounding material. Each color illustrates the relative speed of ionized oxygen gas across the galaxy cluster. The redder the color the faster the gas is moving away from our line of sight relative to the quasar, while the bluer the color the faster it’s moving toward us relative to the quasar. The color green indicates that the gas is steady in our line of sight in comparison to the quasar.