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New Panorama Reveals More Than a Thousand Black Holes
03.12.07
Chandra image of a region of the Bootes constellation

A new wide-field panorama reveals more than a thousand supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies, some up to several billion times more massive than the sun. This survey, taken in a region of the Bootes constellation, involved 126 separate Chandra exposures of 5,000-seconds each, making it the largest contiguous field ever obtained by the observatory. At 9.3 square degrees, it is over 40 times larger than the full moon seen on the night sky, which is also shown in this graphic for scale. In this image, the red represents low-energy X-rays, green shows the medium range, and blue the higher energy X-rays.

Material falling into these black holes at high rates generates huge amounts of light that can be detected in different wavelengths. These systems are known as active galactic nuclei, or AGN. When combined with data from the Spitzer Space Telescope and Kitt Peak's 4-meter Mayall and the MMT 6.5-meter optical telescopes, these results give astronomers a snapshot of a crucial period when these monster black holes are growing, and provide insight into the environments in which they occur.

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Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Hickox et al.; Moon: NASA/JPL