The Two-Way
12:32 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Using NASA Telescope Scientists Uncover Millions Of Black Holes

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 12:35 pm

This paragraph from NASA worried us:

"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."

The idea that the universe is just teeming with star-and-planet eating black holes is a bit nerve-wracking.

But that's not the news: The news is that NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has been able to see black holes and galaxies that were obscured by dust.

WISE, NASA explained, identified millions of so called "quasars," or "supermassive black holes with masses millions to billions times greater than our sun."

NASA continues, "The black holes 'feed' off surrounding gas and dust, pulling the material onto them. As the material falls in on the black hole, it becomes extremely hot and extremely bright."

But beyond that the scientists saw at least 1,000 objects that were brighter than expected but that were so covered by dust that not even the WISE telescope could see through them.

Those galaxies, as The New Scientist reports, have super massive black holes in them. Scientists called them "hot DOGs" or hot dust-obscured galaxies and they had never been observed before.

The New Scientist explains:

"Astronomers think they could represent a new phase in galaxy evolution. 'We may be seeing them at a crucial transformational stage,' says Rachel Somerville of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, who was not involved in the new work. 'Just as if we see a butterfly emerging from cocoon, it might suggest butterflies and caterpillars are the same animals, which we otherwise might not realize.'"

"The hot DOGs showed up in an all-sky survey by the NASA WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) space telescope in 2010. WISE scanned the sky in infrared wavelengths corresponding to heat, meaning it could peer behind the veil of dust that obscures the visible light from hot objects."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.