First there were the dazzling psychedelic images of the Sun, now NASA’s orbiting telescope NuSTAR has discovered five super massive black holes previously enshrouded and hidden within clouds of gas and dust. It’s a spectacular sight to witness. Black holes are places where ordinary gravity has reached an extremity that overwhelms all other forces in the Universe. Once inside, nothing can escape a black hole’s gravity — not even light.
The discovery of these black holes could potentially open up more windows into finding millions of more black holes.
Black holes mainly occur after a supernova star – about 10 times larger than our sun – explodes and sends its matter shooting into the universe. That matter condenses into a black sphere about the size of New York City. Yet despite its size, the weight of that small sphere has a gravitational force so strong not even light can escape its pull. However, despite the pull, these black holes are hard to find.
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission, launched in 2012, was able to distinguish a black hole because of high-energy X-rays penetrating through those clouds of dust.
“Thanks to NuSTAR, for the first time, we have been able to clearly identify these hidden monsters,” said George Lansbury of Durham University, lead author of the U.K.-based study. ” (black holes) have previously been elusive because of their surrounding cocoons of material.”
The scientists found five supermassive black holes after pointing NuSTAR at nine galaxies where these black holes were thought to exist. The areas they searched were extremely active, where black holes were “feasting” on surrounding material.
Not only were the scientists predictions confirmed, the five supermassive black holes were draining and pulling in more matter into their cosmic drain than scientists thought.
Scientists now believe there could be millions of supermassive black holes covered by gas and dust. In the ultimate game of hide and seek, researchers will begin searching for any X-ray-producing activity that could lead them to a discovery.
“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,” Lansbury said in a statement.