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The image is from the Chandra Deep Field-South. The full field covers an approximately circular region on the sky with an area about two-thirds that of the full moon. However, the outer regions of the image, where the sensitivity to X-ray emission is lower, are not shown here. The colors in this image represent different levels of X-ray energy detected by Chandra. Here the lowest-energy X-rays are red, the medium band is green, and the highest-energy X-rays observed by Chandra are blue. The central region of this image contains the highest concentration of supermassive black holes ever seen, equivalent to about 5,000 objects that would fit into the area of the full moon and about a billion over the entire sky. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/B. Luo et al
“With this one amazing picture, we can explore the earliest days of black holes in the Universe and see how they change over billions of years,” said Niel Brandt, the Verne M. Willaman Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and professor of physics, Penn State, who led a team of astronomers studying the deep image.
“It can be very difficult to detect black holes in the early Universe because they are so far away and they only produce radiation if they’re actively pulling in matter,” said team member Bin Luo, professor of astronomy and space science, Nanjing University. “But by staring long enough with Chandra, we can find and study large numbers of growing black holes, some of which appear not long after the Big Bang.”
“By detecting X-rays from such distant galaxies, we’re learning more about the formation and evolution of stellar-mass and supermassive black holes in the early Universe,” said team member Fabio Vito, postdoctoral scholar in astronomy and astrophysics, Penn State. “We’re looking back to times when black holes were in crucial phases of growth, similar to hungry infants and adolescents.”