Science

Astronomers Discover “Supermassive” Black Holes

A team of scientists has discovered 5 huge black holes that were previously disguised by clouds of dust and gas.

The evidence suggests that there may be millions more black holes in the universe than scientists previously thought. These supermassive black holes suck material into a point of infinite density, which is formed as billions of cosmic objects are compressed.

Astronomers Discover "Supermassive" Black Holes

Discovery suggests many more supermassive black holes exist

Scientists spotted the new black holes thanks to high energy X-rays which are emitted from around them. By identifying these X-rays, scientists were able to reveal the presence of supermassive black holes at the center of five different galaxies.

The black holes were detected by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) orbiting observatory, which was sent into orbit around the Earth in 2012. Its primary function is to detect 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,” said lead scientist George Lansbury, from the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy at the University of Durham.

“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,” he continued.

Orbiting observatory allows deeper knowledge of the universe

The team presented their results during 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,” said Dr Daniel Stern, who works on the NuSTAR project at NASA.

“NuSTAR allows us to see how big the hidden monsters are and is helping us learn why only some black holes appear obscured,” he added.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) provided funding for the research, which will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Black holes are a mind-boggling concept, and this latest research reveals the existence of monstrous “supermassive” specimens in the universe.