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 X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions
28.06.2017 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

nachricht New photoacoustic technique detects gases at parts-per-quadrillion level
28.06.2017 | Brown University

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>