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Monday, July 6, 2009

Black Holes, Blobs, A Universe Coming of Age

[R]esearchers have found evidence that black holes may. . . be the key to mysterious glowing clouds of gas lurking in the early universe.

Over the last 10 years, astronomers patrolling the distant reaches of space have discovered dozens of these clouds, which are technically called blobs. One, named Himiko after a mythical Japanese queen by the Japanese astronomers who found it, dates to only 840 million years after the Big Bang.

The blobs inhabit places and times in which galaxies and stars were being built like gangbusters, but astronomers have been divided about what these blobs have to say about how galaxies are born, and what makes them glow.

A group of astronomers, brandishing results from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, are now pointing a finger at black holes. The blobs, they reported at a recent news conference and in a paper to be published on Friday in The Astrophysical Journal, are being blasted and lighted up from inside by the radiation spilling from the lips of supermassive black holes, weighing in at perhaps a billion times the mass of the Sun, at the centers of newly forming galaxies.

The blobs themselves were probably “leftovers,” as one scientist put it, from the initial growth spurts of these galaxies.

“The blobs,” said James Geach of Durham University in England, might be “the signatures of galaxies coming of age.”

link: Black Holes May Be Fueling the Blobs of Deep Space -


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