A new deep-space study by NASA shows the vast void beyond our home is dotted not only with countless galaxies and stars, but also a stunning number of supermassive black holes.
Using data collected over 80 days of observations by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory spacecraft, the agency released an image that shows the largest concentration of black holes ever seen. According to scientists, the density as viewed from Earth would be equivalent to about 5,000 objects that would fit into the area of the sky covered by the full moon.
“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,” study leader Niel Brandt of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, said in a statement.
The image above shows black holes emitting x-ray energy at a variety of intensities. Red indicates low energy, medium is green, and the highest-energy x-rays observed by Chandra are blue. About 70 percent of the objects in the image are supermassive black holes, with masses estimated to range anywhere from 100,000 to 10 billion times the mass of our sun. Many date back billions of years, forming just after the Big Bang.
While invisible to the naked eye, black holes emit x-rays due to captured matter heating up as it spins faster and faster towards the object’s all-consuming center or event horizon.