Black Hole Discovery Suggests Millions More Supermassive Black Holes Exist

Posted on July 6, 2015

Supermassive black hole hidden by dust and gas

A discovery of five hidden supermassive black holes suggests there are millions more supermassive black holes in the Universe than previously thought. Astronomers found the hidden black holes the discovery using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite observatory. The black holes were clouded from direct view by dust and gas.

The research study was led by astronomers at Durham University, UK. The image above is an artist's illustration of a supermassive black hole. It is hidden from direct view by a thick layer of encircling gas and dust.

High-energy x-rays confirmed the existence of the five supermassive black holes obscured by dust and gas. These observations were not possible without NuSTAR, which launched it 2012. It can detect much higher energy x-rays than previous satellite observatories.

George Lansbury, lead author of study from the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, at Durham University, says in a statement, "For a long time we have known about supermassive black holes that are not obscured by dust and gas, but we suspected that many more were hidden from our view. Thanks to NuSTAR for the first time we have been able to clearly see these hidden monsters that are predicted to be there, but have previously been elusive because of their 'buried' state. Although we have only detected 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."

A research paper on the findings has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Image: NASA/ESA