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NASA Captures Deepest X-Ray Image of the First Supermassive Black Holes in the Universe

By Ana Verayo, | January 07, 2017

This image contains the highest concentration of black holes ever seen, equivalent to 5,000 over the area of the full Moon. (NASA/CXC/Penn State/B. Luo et al)

This image contains the highest concentration of black holes ever seen, equivalent to 5,000 over the area of the full Moon. (NASA/CXC/Penn State/B. Luo et al)

NASA has captured its deepest X-ray image, revealing the highest population of supermassive black holes to date. This new image shows about 5,000 of them in an area the size of a full moon, or a billion black holes for an entire sky, courtesy of NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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According to astronomer Bin Luo at Nanjing University in China, it is a very challenging task to detect black holes especially those that have existed since the early universe due to their extreme distances. They can be traced if only they emit radiation from sucking in matter actively.

The team said that by studying and observing them long enough with Chandra, they found out that there are a lot of growing black holes. Some of them appeared shortly after the Big Bang event.

This new image gave astronomers the chance to study the evolutionary stages of the first ever supermassive black holes in the universe, which appeared some 1 to 2 billion years after the Big Bang event.

In this new study, intensive analysis of Chandra data revealed how supermassive black holes grow and accumulate in sporadic spurts, as opposed to a slow and steady expansion.

 

Also, astronomers suggest that they began as "heavy" seeds, composed of 10,000 to 100,000 solar masses during their infancy stages.

During Chandra's latest survey, the space telescope was able to absorb X-rays from 2,000 galaxies that are about 12 to 13 billion light-years away from Earth, with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope. 

According to astronomer Fabio Vito from the Pennsylvania State University, studying X-rays from these distant galaxies is crucial to gain a better understanding of the evolution of stellar mass and supermassive black holes shortly after the birth of the universe.

Vito added that by analyzing observations from Chandra of young black holes, this could reveal the pivotal stages of growth that are similar to infants and adolescents who are hungry, devouring massive stellar-mass.

This new study was published in the Astrophysical Journal. 

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