Hot Dog! WISE Finds a Bounty of Black Holes

Article written: 29 Aug , 2012
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

From a NASA press release:

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has led to a bonanza of newfound supermassive black holes and extreme galaxies called hot DOGs, or dust-obscured galaxies.

Images from the telescope have revealed millions of dusty black hole candidates across the universe and about 1,000 even dustier objects thought to be among the brightest galaxies ever found. These powerful galaxies, which burn brightly with infrared light, are nicknamed hot DOGs.

“WISE has exposed a menagerie of hidden objects,” said Hashima Hasan, WISE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’ve found an asteroid dancing ahead of Earth in its orbit, the coldest star-like orbs known and now, supermassive black holes and galaxies hiding behind cloaks of dust.”

WISE scanned the whole sky twice in infrared light, completing its survey in early 2011. Like night-vision goggles probing the dark, the telescope captured millions of images of the sky. All the data from the mission have been released publicly, allowing astronomers to dig in and make new discoveries.

The latest findings are helping astronomers better understand how galaxies and the behemoth black holes at their centers grow and evolve together. For example, the giant black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, has 4 million times the mass of our sun and has gone through periodic feeding frenzies where material falls towards the black hole, heats up and irradiates its surroundings. Bigger central black holes, up to a billion times the mass of our sun, may even shut down star formation in galaxies.

In one study, astronomers used WISE to identify about 2.5 million actively feeding supermassive black holes across the full sky, stretching back to distances more than 10 billion light-years away. About two-thirds of these objects never had been detected before because dust blocks their visible light. WISE easily sees these monsters because their powerful, accreting black holes warm the dust, causing it to glow in infrared light.

This zoomed-in view of a portion of the all-sky survey from WISE shows a collection of quasar candidates. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

“We’ve got the black holes cornered,” said Daniel Stern of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead author of the WISE black hole study and project scientist for another NASA black-hole mission, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). “WISE is finding them across the full sky, while NuSTAR is giving us an entirely new look at their high-energy X-ray light and learning what makes them tick.”

In two other WISE papers, researchers report finding what are among the brightest galaxies known, one of the main goals of the mission. So far, they have identified about 1,000 candidates.

These extreme objects can pour out more than 100 trillion times as much light as our sun. They are so dusty, however, that they appear only in the longest wavelengths of infrared light captured by WISE. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope followed up on the discoveries in more detail and helped show that, in addition to hosting supermassive black holes feverishly snacking on gas and dust, these DOGs are busy churning out new stars.

“These dusty, cataclysmically forming galaxies are so rare WISE had to scan the entire sky to find them,” said Peter Eisenhardt, lead author of the paper on the first of these bright, dusty galaxies, and project scientist for WISE at JPL. “We are also seeing evidence that these record setters may have formed their black holes before the bulk of their stars. The ‘eggs’ may have come before the ‘chickens.'”

More than 100 of these objects, located about 10 billion light-years away, have been confirmed using the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, as well as the Gemini Observatory in Chile, Palomar’s 200-inch Hale telescope near San Diego, and the Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory near Tucson, Ariz.

The WISE observations, combined with data at even longer infrared wavelengths from Caltech’s Submillimeter Observatory atop Mauna Kea, revealed that these extreme galaxies are more than twice as hot as other infrared-bright galaxies. One theory is their dust is being heated by an extremely powerful burst of activity from the supermassive black hole.

“We may be seeing a new, rare phase in the evolution of galaxies,” said Jingwen Wu of JPL, lead author of the study on the submillimeter observations. All three papers are being published in the Astrophysical Journal.

The three technical journal articles, including PDFs, can be found at, and .

Lead image caption: With its all-sky infrared survey, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has identified millions of quasar candidates. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

13 Responses

  1. lcrowell says

    I am not sure of the astrophysics, yet I suspect it makes sense these galaxies are “dusty.” It is my understanding that gigasolar mass black holes prevent star formation. In the early period of these galaxies they may have had POPIII and POPII stars churn out heavy elements beyond helium, but star formation was clamped by a giga-SMBH. Gas and dust has been blown outwards and is less available for star formation. These galaxies are impoverished of stars, shrouded by dust and dominated at the center by a black hole.

  2. HeadAroundU says

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

    How do I remove it from every article?

    • lcrowell says

      You may have a virus that has changed some browser setting, or that is infecting your registry files. What ever you do don’t go to this website, it could have all sorts of cyber bombs waiting.

  3. Member
    Aqua4U says

    I like this:”We are also seeing evidence that these record setters may have formed
    their black holes before the bulk of their stars. The ‘eggs’ may have
    come before the ‘chickens.’ ” Back to the ‘chicken and the egg’ analogy anyone?

    Given that our scientific understanding of the evolution of our universe is in real terms quite young, or roughly only about 200 years old – that is if one excludes the ‘predecessor elements’ therein – we may yet find there are overlooked or unrecognized yet crucial elements in that evolution?

    I totally agree with Frazier’s philosophy where he states, “Where we discuss not only what we know, but how we know what we know.” But from there, I will use two instances where the ‘less than scientific method’ changed the way we look at our physical universe…

    Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834-1907), after working many years attempting to organize the elements, had a daydream were he saw in part the answer to his quest: According to Mendeleev’s statement to Prof. A.A.Inostrantsev, a day dream
    DID help him somewhat finalize/formalize his ideas of an organized table of elements. The quote in part, was where he dreamed… “a table where all the elements fell into place as required”. It is important to note that the dream was not exactly the final form of the

    Secondly there was Friedrich Kekule who is said to have visualized the Benzene molecule, also in a daydream.

    Don’t get me wrong, both of these men spent YEARS studying HARD after their interests. So these ‘day dreams’ were not simple revelations.

    Which leads me to my ‘day dream’…. where I saw the universe receding away until it looked like a fuzzy ball of light. Surrounding it were innumerable other ‘fuzzy balls’ of light, which were all somehow interconnected with ‘streamers’ of, for lack of a better term, tendrils. Then I came across an obscure theory which in part stated that at the core of every atom is a quantum scale ‘black hole’. Perhaps due to my ‘day dream’ I like to refer to those quantum scale black holes as inter dimensional vertices. Or an aspect of the interconnections between the ‘fuzzy balls’ of light. And where those vertices form or enter into our space time, they are slowed below the speed of light and in doing so, shed tremendous amounts of energy which creates many of the forces known to us, such as electro magnetism, gravity, strong and weak atomic forces.. and eventually matter itself. Does this explain galactic formation? NO, but I like to dream. And I intend to continue doing so…

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      Standard cosmology is a framework that describes the rough structure formation in the universe down to galaxy scales. We already know by way of simulation that it is the only theory that does the job.

      Those are the science facts. Fantasies, with or without the touch of EU religion, is not science, but literature. I know you intend to share, but it honestly doesn’t suit here for obvious reasons.

      • Member
        Aqua4U says

        In the philosophy I follow, called: The Science of Mind, we believe that MIND, or the interconnectedness of SPIRIT, is infinite. When or if we allow our ‘monkey brains’ to be remain silent long enough, through practiced meditation, we (anyone) can gain access to that infinite source of knowing, wisdom and LOVE, more commonly referred to as soul. When this occurs EEG studies show that something incredible happens. That is, the brain begins to function more as a whole. Instead of using only 10-15% of our our neurons, that total is multiplied to upwards of 80%. Intuitive reasoning may be viewed as an aspect of that wholeness and as stated above, is in appearances not a physical world science. And yet intuitive reasoning somehow provides answers or clues to otherwise unknowable information. Our somewhat logical material world does not provide access to the infinities that surround us otherwise. Instances of those occurrences are found throughout the world’s literature, albeit mostly in the form of philosophical or even a religious nature. Are we to ignore the tools given us?

        Your comments about ‘EU religion’ are to be taken as somewhat ‘name calling’. You have a history of vehemently denying just how much electro magnetic energy operates and influences our universe.. and yet daily we see more and more information that those forces do indeed ‘attenuate’ our very existence. To constantly cast that information in a negative light (Light – a form of EM radiation) is absurd for any truly scientific or ‘enlightened’ mind. That very thought is created by an exchange of ions, or an electric current, within our brains.

      • Member
        IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE says

        Be advised that your comment(s) is entering the realm of personal theory promotion. As Fraser has stated: “[If you have] got an idea and you want the world to know about it, then start up your own website, and blog away, but don’t do it here.”

      • Member
        Aqua4U says

        I’ll leave you then with your Standard Torbjorn Larsson.

    • Don’t forget the double helix/spiral staircase dream…..

    • magnus.nyborg says

      Your MINUTES of studing, and YEARS of daydreaming didnt really pay off.

  4. The fact that we keep on finding more stuff is why I’m still on the fence about dark matter. Oh, I’m ready to accept it if need be, but I still think “there’s missing matter in the universe” is mostly due to the fact that the universe is a little too big for us to measure from our tiny vantage point and we may be completely in the dark about any possible forces outside our universe but still affecting it.

    We know so little on a universal scale.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      I don’t know whether you know what a theory is. But I can safely say on the other side of the speed bump in learning that it is awfully difficult to claim what you just did if you know about theories.

      When Newton proposed hist theory of gravity, he didn’t just propose that there was a process involving a force of gravity. He proposed a testable theory that predicted the 1/r^2 behavior of that forces.

      Moreover, it was a completely self-consistent theory. F = GmM/r^2 tells us about the force on both the test body m and the unknown body M, i.e on all masses. It doesn’t tell us what a mass is beyond that or what it comes from, it is irrelevant to the usefulness of the theory.

      Standard cosmology with dark matter and dark energy is precisely like Newton’s gravity theory. It is the first completely self-consistent cosmology. It doesn’t tell us what dark matter or dark energy is beyond that or what they come from, it is irrelevant to the usefulness of the theory.

      As you can see we expect that standard cosmology is not the last word, but that it is mainly correct. In fact we _know_ that it isn’t the last word, because it doesn’t describe initial inflation in detail. It breaks down at high energies in the same way that Newton gravity breaks down at high energies.

      As Newton gravity roughly describes the behavior of all astronomical bodies, standard cosmology roughly describes the behavior of the observable universe over all times.

      We know so much on a universal scale. It is amazing how much and how fast it happened.

      the universe is a little too big for us to measure from our tiny vantage point and we may be completely in the dark about any possible forces outside our universe

      I think you mean “the observable universe”.

      Again, if you had studied the work you wouldn’t claim that. The WMAP team especially has put a lot of effort to assure us that we can completely reject “any possible forces outside our [observable] universe” (or any non-uniform initial condition or any non-uniform parameter or non-constant “constant”) as predicting the behavior of our observable universe, because that is what our observations tells us under the constraint of the tested theory.

      And there are no competing theory that would unravel that observation. The expected improvement, that would be to standard cosmology like general relativity was to newton gravity, is not expected to change that.

      The papers are on the WMAP site, so they are accessible to all.

Comments are closed.