Cambridge scientists discover 'supermassive black holes'
Using infrared technology, Cambridge scientists have recently discovered a new population of supermassive black holes.
by Georgina Phillips
Wednesday 10th October 2012, 16:38 BST
Using the UK Infrared Telescope based in Hawaii, the Cambridge-led survey managed to find these previously unseen black holes by detecting the large quantities of radiation they emitted due to violent interaction with their host galaxies. This collection of black holes had been previously unobservable through standard surveys as they were surrounded by dust.
One of the supermassive black holes, situated 11 billion light years away, is thought to have a mass 10 billion times that of our Sun. The team behind the discovery now believe there may be as many as 400 black holes in the observable universe.
As the light has taken so long to reach us, it gives scientists an important insight into the more turbulent past of our universe.
Dr Manda Banerji, lead author of the paper published by the Royal Astronomical Society, explained how this research could have a profound impact on the study of supermassive black holes altogether:
"Although these black holes have been studied for some time, the new results indicate that some of the most massive ones may have so far been hidden from our view."
This newly found population allows scientists to be able to further investigate the physical properties of these features and the relationship between supermassive black holes and galaxies.
Using the Chilean ALMA telescope, this team hopes to be able to conduct further research on these previously unknown quasars and attempt to observe any possible collisions with other galaxies that may feed these supermassive black holes.
Although supermassive black holes are the largest type of galactic black holes by mass, they are less dense then their smaller cousins and their origins are still unknown. Scientists agree however that when they are placed at the centre of a galaxy, they can grow by consuming surrounding matter or binding with other black holes.