Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/B.Luo et al.
Astronomers used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to obtain the deepest X-ray image we have ever observed. It took 7Ms or equivalently eleven and a half weeks of observing time to construct this amazing picture.
The image comes from a region of the sky called Chandra Deep Field South (CDFS). About 70% of the objects in the picture are supermassive black holes (SMBHs) that their mass ranges from 100,000 to ten billion times the mass of our Sun. Chandra satellite captured these SMBHs as they brightly emit in X-rays. This emission comes from hot gas that is falling towards the black hole.
The picture allows scientists to explore how SMBHs are created in the early Universe and how they change over billions of years. It can also shed light to the question of how these monster black holes grew about only one to two billion years after the Big Bang. There are hints that the seeds for SMBHs may have been heavier than previously thought with masses about 10,000 to 100,000 times that of the Sun, instead of 100 times the Sun’s mass.
Astrophysicists also detected X-rays in this image that come from massive galaxies at distances up to 12.5 billion light years from Earth. This X-ray emission most likely, originates from large collections of smaller, stellar-mass black holes within the galaxies. These less massive black holes are formed from the collapse of massive stars and their mass can be up to 20 times the mass of the Sun.
Astronomers will be able to solve the mystery of supermassive black holes as the samples of distant galaxies increase. Further work using Chandra and other X-ray observatories is need. In addition, future telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will allow the study of X-ray emission at even greater distances from Earth.