Thousands Of Supermassive Black Holes Could Lurk In New X-Ray Data

by Elizabeth Howell on December 16, 2013

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

Artist's conception of the SWIFT satellite. Credit: NASA

Artist’s conception of the SWIFT satellite. Credit: NASA

Supermassive black holes likely are behind most of the nearly 100,000 new X-ray sources plotted by the Swift X-ray Telescope, according to findings led by the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. The results came from poring over eight years of data produced by the Swift space observatory.

“Stars and galaxies emit X-rays because the electrons in them move at extremely high speeds, either because they are very hot (over a million degrees) or because extreme magnetic fields accelerate them. The underlying cause is usually gravity; gas can be compressed and heated as it falls on to black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs or when trapped in the turbulent magnetic fields of stars like our Sun,” the university stated.

“Most of the newly discovered X-ray sources are expected to signal the presence of super-massive black holes in the centers of large galaxies many millions of light-years from earth, but the catalog also contains transient objects (short-lived bursts of X-ray emission) which may come from stellar flares or supernovae.”

The results were published in The Astrophysical Journal, which you can read here. You can also read the prepublished version on Arxiv.

 

Plot points across the sky showing the new X-ray sources that the SWIFT satellite found. Blue represents higher-energy sources, and red lower-energy ones. The line represents the galactic plane, where many of the sources are concentrated. Source: Evans (University of Leicester)

Plot points across the sky showing the new X-ray sources that the SWIFT satellite found. Blue represents higher-energy sources, and red lower-energy ones. The line represents the galactic plane, where many of the sources are concentrated. Source:
Evans (University of Leicester)

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Aqua4U December 16, 2013 at 11:02 AM

I wonder how many of these x-ray sources are from Gravitars?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: