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Webb telescope uncovers merger of two massive black holes from early universe

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Webb telescope uncovers merger of two massive black holes from early universe
TECH

TECH

Webb telescope uncovers merger of two massive black holes from early universe

2024-05-16 23:15 Last Updated At:23:32

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The Webb Space Telescope has discovered the earliest known merger of black holes.

These two gigantic black holes and their galaxies consolidated just 740 million years after the universe-forming Big Bang. It's the most distant detection ever made of merging black holes, scientists reported Thursday.

One black hole is 50 million times more massive than our sun. The other is thought to be similar in size, but is buried in dense gas, which makes it harder to measure.

Until now, astronomers weren’t sure how supermassive black holes got so big.

The latest findings, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, suggest mergers are how black holes can grow so rapidly — “even at cosmic dawn,” said lead author Hannah Ubler of the University of Cambridge.

"Massive black holes have been shaping the evolution of galaxies from the very beginning," Ubler said in a statement.

Launched in 2021 as the eventual successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Webb is the biggest and most powerful observatory ever sent into space. A joint U.S.-European project, the infrared observatory surveys the universe from a location 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

This image released by NASA shows the ZS7 galaxy system, revealing the ionized hydrogen emission in orange and the doubly ionized oxygen emission in dark red. (ESA/Webb, NASA via AP)

This image released by NASA shows the ZS7 galaxy system, revealing the ionized hydrogen emission in orange and the doubly ionized oxygen emission in dark red. (ESA/Webb, NASA via AP)

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government on Friday announced a nationwide curfew across Bangladesh and ordered the deployment of military forces to maintain order following days of deadly clashes over the allocation of government jobs.

The announcement was made by Obaidul Quader, the general secretary of the ruling Awami League party, and came after police and security officials fired on protesters Friday and banned all gatherings in the capital. Several people were killed, media reports said.

Quader said the military was deployed to help the civilian administration keep order.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Police and security officials in Bangladesh fired bullets and tear gas at protesters Friday and banned all gatherings in the capital as internet and mobile services were cut off following days of deadly clashes over the allocation of government jobs. Several people were killed, media reports said.

The protests, which began weeks ago but escalated sharply this week, represent the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina since she won a fourth consecutive term in office after elections in January. Main opposition groups boycotted those polls.

There were varying reports of the number of people killed Friday, with Independent Television reporting 17 dead and Somoy TV reporting 30. An Associated Press reporter saw 23 bodies at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, but it was not immediately clear whether they had all died on Friday.

A death toll of 22 people was reported on Thursday, in what had so far been the bloodiest day of demonstrations, according to local media, as protesting students attempted to impose a “complete shutdown” of the country.

Authorities could not be reached immediately to confirm figures for the deaths.

The chaos has highlighted cracks in Bangladesh’s governance and economy and the frustration of young graduates who face a lack of good jobs.

The government has deployed police and paramilitary forces across the capital to lock down campuses and break up protests. On Wednesday, universities including the country's largest suspended classes and closed dormitories, and on Friday police in Dhaka said they were banning all gatherings and demonstrations in the capital.

An Associated Press reporter saw border guard officials fire at a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters who had gathered outside the head office of state-run Bangladesh Television, which was attacked and set on fire by protesters the previous day.

The border guards shot at the crowd with rifles and sound grenades, while police officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Bullets littered the streets, which were also marked by smears of blood.

Internet services and mobile data were widely disrupted on Thursday night and remained down on Friday in the capital, Dhaka. Social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp were also not loading. It coincided with a widespread internet outage on Friday that disrupted flights, banks, media outlets and companies around the world, but the disruptions in Bangladesh were substantially greater than seen elsewhere.

A statement from the country’s Telecommunication Regulatory Commission said they were unable to ensure service after their data center was attacked Thursday by demonstrators, who set fire to some equipment. The Associated Press was not able to independently verify this.

Student protesters said they will extend their calls to impose a shutdown on Friday as well, and urged mosques across the country to hold funeral prayers for those who have been killed. Major universities have said they will close their doors until tensions ease.

The protesters are demanding an end to a quota system that reserves up to 30% of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971 against Pakistan.

They argue the system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and they want it replaced with a merit-based system.

But Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect for their contributions to the war regardless of their political affiliation.

The Bangladeshi leader is credited for bringing stable growth to Bangladesh, but rising inflation — thanks in part to the global upheaval sparked by the war in Ukraine — has triggered labor unrest and dissatisfaction with the government.

Even though job opportunities have grown in some parts of the private sector, many people prefer government jobs because they are seen as more stable and lucrative. But there aren’t enough to go around — each year, some 400,000 graduates compete for around 3,000 jobs in the civil service exam.

“What is unfolding in Bangladesh is deeply unsettling for a generation that only asked for a fair opportunity in public service recruitment," said Saad Hammadi, a freedom of speech advocate with the Canada-based Balsillie School of International Affairs. "That a peaceful protest against a state policy would slip into the peak of lawlessness shows the government’s lack of farsightedness and inefficient policy governance,” Hammadi said.

“The internet shutdown makes matters worse. Local news sites are inaccessible, and people in the country are left incommunicado with the rest of the world all in the pretext of conducting sweeping operations by the state that have often resulted in serious human rights violations,” he added in an email.

Bangladesh has previously shut down internet services in areas affected by protests, using it as a measure to suppress dissent by opposition parties. Internet watchdog Access Now said it recorded three shutdowns in the country in 2023 - all of which overlapped with opposition rallies and were limited in scope to one city or district. That came after six shutdowns in 2022.

CIVICUS, a nonprofit that tracks civic freedoms around the world, last year downgraded Bangladesh to “closed,” the worst rating that it could assign, along with China and Venezuela, following a crackdown on the country’s opposition members and supporters ahead of its national election.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has backed the protesting students and vowed to organize its own demonstrations, and many of their supporters have joined in the students' demonstrations. On Friday, police fired tear gas at a few hundred BNP supporters, and arrested senior BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.

The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country's national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures while Hasina's government accused the party of attempting to disrupt the vote.

Hasina’s government had earlier halted the job quotas following mass student protests in 2018, but last month, Bangladesh’s High Court nullified that decision and reinstated the quotas after relatives of the 1971 veterans filed petitions, triggering the latest demonstrations.

The Supreme Court has suspended that ruling pending an appeal hearing, and said in a statement it will take up the issue on Sunday.

On Wednesday, Hasina urged protesters in a televised address to “wait with patience” for the court verdict, saying that she believes they “will get justice” and "will not be disappointed.”

Pathi reported from New Delhi, India.

Activists of All India Democratic Students' Organisation (AIDSO) shout slogans in solidarity with protesting students in Bangladesh, at a protest gathering in New Delhi, India, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo)

Activists of All India Democratic Students' Organisation (AIDSO) shout slogans in solidarity with protesting students in Bangladesh, at a protest gathering in New Delhi, India, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo)

Activists of All India Democratic Students' Organisation (AIDSO) shout slogans in solidarity with protesting students in Bangladesh, at a protest gathering in New Delhi, India, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo)

Activists of All India Democratic Students' Organisation (AIDSO) shout slogans in solidarity with protesting students in Bangladesh, at a protest gathering in New Delhi, India, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo)

Students clash with riot police during a protest against a quota system for government jobs, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Students clash with riot police during a protest against a quota system for government jobs, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Students clash with riot police during a protest against a quota system for government jobs, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Students clash with riot police during a protest against a quota system for government jobs, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Students clash with riot police during a protest against a quota system for government jobs, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Students clash with riot police during a protest against a quota system for government jobs, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

An injured policeman lies on a street during clashes with students protesting against the quota system in public service in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

An injured policeman lies on a street during clashes with students protesting against the quota system in public service in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Students clash with riot police during a protest against a quota system for government jobs, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Students clash with riot police during a protest against a quota system for government jobs, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, July 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

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