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NASA's NuSTAR Uncovers Hidden Supermassive Black Holes in the Universe

First Posted: Jul 06, 2015 06:10 PM EDT

Scientists have discovered evidence for a large population of hidden supermassive black holes in the universe. The findings could be huge for better understanding black holes in general.

In this latest study, the researchers used NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite observatory. They detected high-energy X-rays from five supermassive black holes previously clouded from direct view by dust and gas.

The five newly discovered black holes were much brighter and more active than previously thought as they rapidly feasted on surrounding material and emitted large amounts of radiation. These observations weren't possible before NuSTAR, which launched in 2012 and is able to detect much higher energy X-rays than previous satellite observatories.

"Thanks to NuSTAR for the first time we have been able to see these hidden monsters that are predicted to be there, but have previously been elusive because of their 'buried' state," said George Lansbury, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Although we have only detect 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."

In fact, the new research suggests that there could be millions more supermassive black holes that exist in the universe-far more than previously expected. This, in turn, may tell scientists a bit more about local galaxies and the universe in general.

The findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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