Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomers discover earliest black holes at dawn of universe

Date:
June 15, 2011
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
A team of astronomers has discovered the earliest black holes ever detected, despite the fact that they are hidden from view by their host galaxies. They also measured the average growth rate of the black holes and discovered that they grow and evolve in tandem with their galaxies -- something that astronomers had observed locally but which they knew little about when it came to the early, distant universe.

This artist's impression shows a very young galaxy located in the early Universe less than one billion years after the Big Bang. The distorted appearance of the galaxy is caused by the large number of mergers occurring at this early epoch, and the blue regions mark where star formation is occurring at a high rate. The core of the galaxy is embedded within heavy veils of dust and gas. A cut-out from the core shows that this dust and gas is hiding very bright radiation from the very center of the galaxy, produced by a rapidly growing supermassive black hole.
Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Astronomers have been peering farther and farther into space, and back in time, using the world's most powerful telescopes to detect galaxies billions of light years away that existed when the universe was just a fraction of its current age. But detecting the giant black holes thought to lurk at the centers of those galaxies has proven much more difficult.

Related Articles


Now a team of astronomers has discovered the earliest black holes ever detected, despite the fact that they are hidden from view by their host galaxies. They also measured the average growth rate of the black holes and discovered that they grow and evolve in tandem with their galaxies -- something that astronomers had observed locally but which they knew little about when it came to the early, distant universe.

"This finding tells us there is a symbiotic relationship between black holes and their galaxies that has existed since the dawn of time," said Kevin Schawinski, a Yale astronomer who contributed to the discovery.

The team used a technique called "stacking" in order to detect the incredibly weak signals emitted by the galaxies' central black holes, the farthest of which are 13 billion light years from Earth. Because of their great distance, astronomers see these black holes as they existed less than one billion years after the Big Bang. (The universe is currently estimated to be about 13.7 billion years old.)

The astronomers focused on more than 250 galaxies, which had previously been detected by the Hubble Space Telescope and which they thought were good candidates for harboring black holes at their centers. They then piled multiple images taken by the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory on top of each other, essentially multiplying the weak X-ray signals created by the black holes as they devoured nearby gas and dust.

They detected only the most high-energy X-rays, Schawinski said, meaning the black holes must be hidden behind large quantities of dust and gas from their host galaxies. "This explains why they were so difficult to find," he said.

Theorists, including Yale cosmologist Priyamvada Natarajan, used the observations to determine that even these earliest black holes appear to grow and evolve along with their host galaxies, which is similar to what astronomers have observed in the nearby universe.

"These observations indicate that extremely massive black holes already existed as early as 700-800 million years after the Big Bang, which suggests that either they were born massive to start with, or they experienced rapid growth bursts," Natarajan said. "Either scenario tells us much more than we previously knew, which is very exciting."

Next, the team hopes to use the Chandra observatory to look at an even bigger field of view so they can test theories about how these earliest black holes formed.

Other authors of the paper include Ezequiel Treister (University of Hawaii and Universidad de Concepciσn), Marta Volonteri (University of Michigan) and Eric Gawiser (Rutgers University).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ezequiel Treister, Kevin Schawinski, Marta Volonteri, Priyamvada Natarajan, Eric Gawiser. Black hole growth in the early Universe is self-regulated and largely hidden from view. Nature, 2011; 474 (7351): 356 DOI: 10.1038/nature10103

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Astronomers discover earliest black holes at dawn of universe." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615132021.htm>.
Yale University. (2011, June 15). Astronomers discover earliest black holes at dawn of universe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615132021.htm
Yale University. "Astronomers discover earliest black holes at dawn of universe." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110615132021.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — The mission is China's next step toward automated sample-return missions and eventual manned missions to the moon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins