An unparalleled image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is giving an international team of astronomers the best look yet at the growth of black holes over billions of years, which began soon after the Big Bang. This is the deepest X-ray image ever obtained and was collected with about 7 million seconds, or 11 and a half weeks, of Chandra observing time.
The image comes from what is known as the Chandra Deep Field-South. The central region of the 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.
"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.
About 70 percent of the objects in the new image are supermassive black holes, which may range in mass from about 100,000 to 10 billion times the mass of the Sun. Gas falling towards these black holes becomes much hotter as it approaches the event horizon, or point of no return, producing bright X-ray emission.