T-2, Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology

From the First Planets to the First Supermassive Black Holes

Jarrett Johnson

During the assembly of the first galaxies following the Cosmic Dark Ages, the universe was dramatically transformed by the first sources of high energy radiation and powerful supernovae which released the first heavy elements. It was in this environment that the stage was set for the formation of the earliest objects, over a range of scales from the cores of planets to the seeds of supermassive black holes. I will present a number of recent results related to these processes. In particular, I will describe our recently developed theory of how the first planets formed, and show that it is supported by the growing body of observations of extant planetary systems. Related to this, I will present realistic cosmological hydrodynamics simulations which accurately capture the formation of the earliest galaxies and their enrichment with the heavy elements from which the first planets formed. Finally, I will argue that the results of these simulations, along with many other recent advances, strongly suggest that the first supermassive black holes formed from the collapse of primordial stars with masses over ten thousand times that of our Sun.


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