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NASA telescope finds earliest black holes at dawn of universe

June 16, 2011 - London

A University of Hawaii astronomer has found the first direct evidence that black holes existed when the Universe was just a toddler.

Using the most sensitive X-ray image ever taken, Ezequiel Treister and colleagues observed 200 distant galaxies of which between 30 and 100 percent contained a central black hole that was voraciously consuming the gas and stars that surrounded them.

This discovery was made with NASA's orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory.

"Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong that not even light can escape from them. Until now, we had no idea what the black holes in these early galaxies were doing-or if they even existed," said Treister, lead author of the study that appears in this week's Nature.

"Now we know they are there and they are growing like gangbusters."

"It appears we've found a whole new population of baby black holes," said co-author Kevin Schawinski of Yale University.

"We think these babies will grow by a factor of about a hundred or a thousand, eventually becoming like the giant black holes we see today almost 13 billion years later," he added.


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