October 8, 2012
UK Infrared Telescope Helps ID New Supermassive Black Holes In The Early Universe
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Scientists have discovered a new population of supermassive black holes in the early universe by using infrared surveys.
After traveling 11 billion years, the light from supermassive black hole ULASJ1234+0907 reached Earth. This black hole has more than 10 billion times the mass of the Sun, and 10,000 times the mass of the supermassive black hole in our own Milky Way.
The latest research, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, indicates that there may be as many as 400 of these giant black holes in the part of the universe we can observe.
"These results could have a significant impact on studies of supermassive black holes" said Dr Manda Banerji, lead author of the paper. "Most black holes of this kind are seen through the matter they drag in. As the neighboring material spirals in towards the black holes, it heats up. Astronomers are able to see this radiation and observe these systems."
She said that although these black holes have been studied for a while, the new research indicates that some of the most massive ones have been hidden from our view.
The newly discovered black holes will help to shed light on the physical processes that govern the growth of all supermassive black holes.
Supermassive black holes reside in the center of all galaxies, and scientists believe they grow through violent collisions with other galaxies.
These collisions produce dust within the galaxies, embedding the black hole in a dusty environment for a short period of time as it feeds.
ULASJ1234+0907 has led the astronomers to believe through their observations that conditions in the early Universe were much more turbulent and inhospitable than they are today.
During their study, the team used infrared surveys on the U.K. Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) to look through the dust and locate the giant black holes for the first time.
"These results are particularly exciting because they show that our new infrared surveys are finding super massive black holes that are invisible in optical surveys," said Prof. Richard McMahon, co-author of the study. "These new quasars are important because we may be catching them as they are being fed through collisions with other galaxies."
He said the observations with the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile will allow scientists to test this picture by detecting the microwave frequency radiation that is emitted by the gas in the colliding galaxies.