Supermassive black holes were already common when the universe was young

Artist concept of a supermassive black hole forming in the young universe (image NASA/CXC/A.Hobart)
Artist concept of a supermassive black hole forming in the young universe (image NASA/CXC/A.Hobart)

It’s now an accepted fact that galaxies have at their center a black hole with a mass millions times greater than the Sun. So far though there were only theories about the period in which these super-blacks holes were formed. Now thanks to a research carried out using NASA’s Chandra and Hubble space telescopes it’s been possible to examine a group of extremely distant galaxies. This has allowed scientists to collect information useful to determine the period of formation of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies.

Astronomers chose an area of ​​the sky with little gas to interfere and for more than six weeks they have pointed the X-ray Space Telescope Chandra getting the Chandra Deep Field South (CDFS). This is an image created by cumulative exposure that allows the examination of an area of the universe very far away from where very weak electromagnetic radiation reach us.

The galaxies observed are about 200 and their distance is such that the light we see today dates back to a time when the universe was less than a billion years old. It seems an advanced age but in reality at that time the universe was still young.

The observations of the Chandra telescope have been combined with visible light and infrared images from the Hubble telescope making it possible to identify galaxies that are the most distant therefore ancient. X-rays coming from them have been recorded to see if there were supermassive black holes in the first phase of their formation.

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According to this research at least 30% of the observed galaxies contain supermassive black holes but it’s even possible that they all have one. These black holes are growing and are less intense versions of quasars. In fact according to the estimate their brightness is one-hundredth and their mass one thousandth compared to those incredibly massive and bright objects.

According to estimates made as a result of this research these black holes are expected to grow up a lot, even a thousand times, to become the super-black holes present today at the center of galaxies.

The importance of this research is due to the fact that there could be a very close link between the presence of supermassive black holes and the evolution of galaxies. Thanks to the very interesting result obtained this type of research will be continued to better understand the birth and growth of organized structures when the universe was young. It may also be possible to verify if our kind of life could have emerged as an indirect consequence of the existence of these black holes.

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