Black holes and 'hot-dogs' uncovered by Nasa telescope

Aug 30, 2012

'Wise' telescope sees through veil of space dust to discover hot galaxies and supermassive black holes


A NASA telescope has discovered millions of supermassive black holes and hundreds of mysterious galaxies that have previously been hidden behind "cloaks" of dust.

The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or Wise, telescope uses infrared to scan the heavens and can see wavelengths of light far beyond those visible to the human eye. Its remarkable findings have been made public through three new studies.

"Like night-vision goggles probing the dark, the telescope captured millions of images of the sky," explained Nasa this week. "All the data from the mission have been released publicly, allowing astronomers to dig in and make new discoveries."

In one paper, researchers were able to identify about 2.5 million "actively feeding" supermassive black holes (above), some of which are more than 10 billion light years away. Most had never been seen before because space dust had obscured them from view.

"With the latest results, Wise has come into its own as an unparalleled black hole hunter," reports the BBC.

Nasa is following up the Wise sightings using its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array to find out more about them. "We've got the black holes cornered," said Nasa scientist Daniel Stern who led the black hole study.

Other researchers have also identified around 1,000 even dustier objects thought to be among the brightest galaxies ever found, which have been nicknamed hot-dogs, or hot dust-obscured galaxies. Some of these newly discovered star systems can outshine our Sun by a factor of 100 trillion but have remained hidden up until now.

"These dusty, cataclysmically forming galaxies are so rare Wise had to scan the entire sky to find them," said Peter Eisenhardt, lead author of one of the papers. "We are also seeing evidence that these record setters may have formed their black holes before the bulk of their stars. The 'eggs' may have come before the 'chickens'."

All three papers are being published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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The picture is of a black hole surrounded by trillions of tonnes of water and is at least a year old. Why is it used for this article?

Bullshit. Are you kidding?