Supermassive Black Holes uncovered

Published: July 6, 2015

Supermassive Black Holes uncovered, Five monster black holes that were previously hidden by dust and gas have been uncovered by astronomers.

The British-led discovery suggests there may be millions more ‘supermassive’ black holes in the universe than were previously thought.

Supermassive black holes are powerful cosmic ‘drains’ sucking material into a point of infinite density, which are formed from the compressed mass of hundreds of thousands to billions of suns.

High energy X-rays emitted from around the newly identified black holes revealed their presence at the centre of five galaxies.

They were detected by the American space agency NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) orbiting observatory, which was launched in 2012.

The space telescope is designed to pick up extremely high energy X-rays from distant objects.

‘For a long time we have known about supermassive black holes that are not obscured by dust and gas, but we suspected that many more were hidden from our view,’lead scientist George Lansbury, from the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy at the University of Durham said.

‘Although we have only detected five of these hidden supermassive black holes, when we extrapolate our results across the whole universe then the predicted numbers are huge and in agreement with what we would expect to see.’

The scientists presented their findings at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting, in Llandudno Wales.

‘High-energy X-rays are more penetrating than low-energy X-rays, so we can see deeper into the gas burying the black holes,’ Dr Daniel Stern, NuSTAR project scientist at NASA, said.

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