Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New panorama reveals more than a thousand black holes

14.03.2007
By casting a wide net, astronomers have captured an image of more than a thousand supermassive black holes. These results give astronomers a snapshot of a crucial period when these monster black holes are growing, and provide insight into the environments in which they occur.

The new black hole panorama was made with data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based optical telescopes. The black holes in the image are hundreds of millions to several billion times more massive than the sun and lie in the centers of galaxies.

Material falling into these black holes at high rates generates huge amounts of light that can be detected in different wavelengths. These systems are known as active galactic nuclei, or AGN.

"We're trying to get a complete census across the universe of black holes and their habits," said Ryan Hickox of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass. "We used special tactics to hunt down the very biggest black holes."

Instead of staring at one relatively small part of the sky for a long time, as with the Chandra Deep Fields -- two of the longest exposures obtained with the observatory -- and other concentrated surveys, this team scanned a much bigger portion with shorter exposures. Since the biggest black holes power the brightest AGN, they can be spotted at vast distances, even with short exposures.

"With this approach, we found well over a thousand of these monsters, and have started using them to test our understanding of these powerful objects," said co-investigator Christine Jones, also of the CfA.

The new survey raises doubts about a popular current model in which a supermassive black hole is surrounded by a doughnut-shaped region, or torus, of gas. An observer from Earth would have their view blocked by this torus by different amounts, depending on the orientation of the torus.

According to this model, astronomers would expect a large sample of black holes to show a range of absorption of the radiation from the nuclei. This absorption should range from completely exposed to completely obscured, with most in-between. Nuclei that are completely obscured are not detectable, but heavily obscured ones are.

"Instead of finding a whole range, we found nearly all of the black holes are either naked or covered by a dense veil of gas," said Hickox. "Very few are in between, which makes us question how well we know the environment around these black holes."

This study found more than 600 obscured and 700 unobscured AGN, located between about six and 11 billion light years from Earth. They were found using an early application of a new search method. By looking at the infrared colors of objects with Spitzer, AGN can be separated from stars and galaxies. The Chandra and optical observations then verify these objects are AGN. This multi-wavelength method is especially efficient at finding obscured AGN.

"These results are very exciting, using two NASA Great Observatories to find and understand the largest sample of supermassive black holes ever found in the distant universe", said co-investigator Daniel Stern, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The Chandra image is the largest contiguous field ever obtained by the observatory. At 9.3 square degrees, it is over 40 times larger than the full moon seen on the night sky and over 80 times larger than either of the Chandra Deep Fields. This survey, taken in a region of the constellation Bootes, involved 126 separate pointings of 5,000-second Chandra exposures each. The researchers combined this with infrared data obtained from Spitzer, and optical data from Kitt Peak's 4-meter Mayall Telescope and the MMT 6.5-meter optical telescopes, both located outside Tuscon, Ariz., for the same patch of sky.

Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cfa.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Midwife and signpost for photons
11.12.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht New research identifies how 3-D printed metals can be both strong and ductile
11.12.2017 | University of Birmingham

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>