Washington: Astrophysicists have published several new studies probing the supermassive black holes at the center of large galaxies. The massive structures are among the brightest, but least understood, objects in the universe.
In terms of the history of the universe, supermassive black holes are a relative newcomer to the cosmic arena. Astronomers can’t even agree on how they form — are they just regular black holes that kept on growing, are they created by some uncommon collapsing stellar matter or did they form right after the big bang and get a “head start” on accumulating mass?
However, what we do know is that supermassive black holes are very big, very bright and spew a ton of matter and radiation out into the universe. We also know that nearly all massive galaxies have one at the center — what they call active galactic nuclei (AGN).
A pair of studies published earlier this year investigate these key questions.
A group of Italian astronomers led by Samuele Ronchini of Gran Sasso Science Institute in Italy has used the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton space telescope to study one AGN with the romantic name PKS 2251+11, a black hole they described as “an ideal candidate” in their March 15 paper published on scholarly peer review site arXiv.org.