Deepest X-Ray Image By NASA Shows Countless Black Holes
In what astronomers say is the deepest X-ray image ever captured, huge numbers of supermassive black holes can be found, giving them the best look yet of how these things grow over billions of years.
The concentration of these monstrous space phenomena found in the center of the photo is unprecedented, as the equivalent of 5,000 supermassive black holes were found over an area the size of a full moon -- or a billion full moons if extended across the night sky. Neil Brandt of the Pennsylvania State University, who led the study, noted, "With this one amazing picture, we can explore the earliest days of black holes in the universe and see how they change over billions of years."
Space.com noted that the image released by NASA incorporated about 80 days' worth of data collected by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Spacecraft and covered a patch of sky that is about 8.5 lightyears across. The researchers presented their findings during the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Texas. The photo they procured showed that about seven out of 10 objects found are supermassive black holes. These things are known to lie at the hearts of galaxies and contain about 100,000 to 10 billion times the mass of the Sun.
Study team member Fabio Vito shared that detecting X-rays from distant galaxies help humans learn about the formation and evolution of the early universe. He also added that, "We're looking back to times when black holes were in crucial phases of growth, similar to hungry infants and adolescents."
But how did they find these massive black holes from so far away? Astronomy.com reported that even NASA uses a backyard astronomy technique: stacking. This involves taking multiple exposures of an object using individual frames to build a better photo or image -- the more exposures there are, the bigger and brighter the photos become.