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Astronomers Explore the Earliest Days of Black Hole Using Deepest X-Ray Image of Observable Universe Ever Obtained

Jan 06, 2017 11:04 AM EST

 An international team of astronomers can now explore and investigate black holes during the earlier days of the universe thanks to the astounding image taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The image, described in a press release from NASA, is made with over seven million seconds of Chandra observing time. Taken as a part of the Chandra Deep Field-South, the image is considered to be the deepest X-ray image ever obtained.

"It can be very difficult to detect black holes in the early Universe because they are so far away and they only produce radiation if they're actively pulling in matter," said Bin Luo, professor of astronomy and space science at Nanjing University and member of the research team, in a press release. "But by staring long enough with Chandra, we can find and study large numbers of growing black holes, some of which appear not long after the Big Bang."

To study the early black holes, the researchers used the Chandra to observe X-ray emission from over 2,000 galaxies identified by the Hubble Telescope. These galaxies are located between 12 and 13 billion light years away from Earth.

X-ray emissions are produced when the gas falling towards the black hole become much hotter as it approaches the horizon. The researchers noted that the 70 percent of the objects in the new image are supermassive black holes, which may range from 100,000 to 10 billion times the mass of sun. Additionally, the researchers observed that most of the X-ray emission from the most distant galaxies likely comes from large collections of stellar-mass black holes within the galaxies.

With the new image, the astronomers observed that supermassive black holes grow mostly in bursts during the early universe, rather than slowly accumulating matter. Further studies using data from Chandra and other X-ray observatories are still necessary to determine how supermassive black holes can quickly rach large masses.

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