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More Supermassive Black Holes Than We Thought! 92

LeadSongDog writes: The Royal Astronomical Society reports five supermassive black holes (SMBHs) that were previously hidden by dust and gas have been uncovered. The discovery suggests there may be millions more supermassive black holes in the universe than were previously thought. George Lansbury, a postgraduate student in the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, at Durham University, said: “For a long time we have known about supermassive black holes that are not obscured by dust and gas, but we suspected that many more were hidden from our view. Thanks to NuSTAR for the first time we have been able to clearly see these hidden monsters that are predicted to be there, but have previously been elusive because of their ‘buried’ state. Although we have only detected five of these hidden supermassive black holes, when we extrapolate our results across the whole Universe then the predicted numbers are huge and in agreement with what we would expect to see.”
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More Supermassive Black Holes Than We Thought!

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Monday July 06, 2015 @04:50PM (#50057635)
    there's more?
  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Monday July 06, 2015 @04:57PM (#50057719)

    So once these and others like them gobble up all the matter in the universe and then they start to work on each other, will we eventually end up with something akin to the makings of another Big Bang?

    Astrophysicists?

    • Bing bang, big crush, repeat.

      The Universe is breathing.

      • IFF ("If and only if") the average density of matter^H^H^H^H^H^H^H gravitating material in the universe is greater than the critical density needed to halt and reverse expansion.

        I've not heard of a serious astrophysicist proposing that in the last 30 years. If you have, can I get a link. Arxiv would be good.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Black holes eventually evaporate through Hawking radiation, though it can take a long time (like >10^70 years, compared to the universe's present age of 10^10 years). See here [wikipedia.org].

      • Wait, black holes are so dense that no radiation can escape from them except they eventually dissolve because of something akin to sublimation?

    • Re:Ultimate Fate? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday July 06, 2015 @06:38PM (#50058551)

      So once these and others like them gobble up all the matter in the universe and then they start to work on each other, will we eventually end up with something akin to the makings of another Big Bang?

      Astrophysicists?

      No, Dark Energy more than compensates for any gravitational affects.
      The current leading theory regarding the end of the universe is called: The Big Rip [wikipedia.org]
      I find the idea very unsatisfying though... not that the universe cares what I think.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        If you haven't read Penrose's book on his cyclic cosmology, you might enjoy it - it reconciles the Big Rip with the Big Crunch (there's no difference if there's no distance scale, and there's no distance scale if all particles are massless). Entertaining if not convincing.

        • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
          Given enough time and the Universe asymptotically approaching zero temperature, I wonder if the entire Universe can entirely become quantum, allowing it to once again cycle through all possibilities until one collapses.
    • by jbolden ( 176878 )

      They are too far away from each other mostly though when they rip each other apart they can throw off a lot of energy. Mostly though between years 5.8×10^(68) and 1.7×10^(106) black holes decay into nothing from Hawking radiation. The bigger they are the longer they last.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      They can only gobble what is in their sphere of influence and on/or a decaying orbit. Gravity is the same whether you're a black hole or not. Because galaxies are moving apart as the universe expands, so are these large black holes. So very few of them will merge.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Could this be an explanation of the missing mass we currently attribute to dark matter?

    • Re:Hidden Blackholes (Score:5, Informative)

      by doublebackslash ( 702979 ) <doublebackslash@gmail.com> on Monday July 06, 2015 @06:26PM (#50058437)

      No and for two reasons.
      This observation is in accordance with our models, so these aren't adding to the mass we had already inferred was there (but confirms that it is organized into massive black holes, so that is good to know)
      Second, the amount of mass that is currently "dark" is about 5.4x what we can account for with all traditional forms of matter (atoms, neutrinos, light's mass-energy, etc). We know it is there based on its gravitational effects and have really good reasons to believe that it is a distinct physical phenomena (e.g. the Bullet Cluster's gravitational lensing agrees with dark matter's physical reality as opposed to a many of the proposed modifications to gravity)

      Obviously dark matter is an active topic of research and so there are many areas of it that are fraught with misconceptions. Beware of simple answers which claim to be complete solutions.

      I am not a researcher in this field, and this is obviously not anywhere near a complete explanation but I hope that at least clears up your question!

      • I'm not convinced that the "gravitational lensing" we are seeing is an invisible gravity well.

        From what we know of physics, time moves slower in a gravity well. The fact that "gravitational lensing" appears in distant regions where there is no mass to explain the warping of space time leads me to believe that we are seeing areas of space where time is moving faster than it is here. Causing a visual distortion of the light that passes through the area.

        • Time dilation effects alone cannot account for the bending of light which gravitational lensing accomplishes. Since time dilation does not change the metric of space it cannot bend light. We know that these observed effects are proper bending of light because of multiple images of the same objects as well as their distortion.

          Another thing to note are that gravitational waves travel at the speed of light and so any lensing effect (and time dilation effect) that could be observed in the gravitational "wake" o

          • Powerful magnetic fields can also bend light, and also happen to be invisible.
            Magnetic fields also have a wake when they are being acted upon by other magnetic fields. Take for instance the magnetic field of our own planet. We know that the field is warped in a way that makes it have a tail like a comet from the solar wind. Why are we so certain that this lensing effect is caused by gravity and not a powerful magnetic field?
            • A magnetic field can only bend a charged particle. Photons are not charged and so are not bent.
              There is a quantum effect called Delbrück scattering, but that is not bending and also the effect is weak enough to be negligible even in controlled experiments.
              Further the fields Bing deflected like the tail of a comment is an interaction between the sun's magnetic field, ours, and the solar wind. It is not a "wake" in the sense that it would need to be in order to cause these effects even if magnetic

              • About that... http://www.gizmag.com/syntheti... [gizmag.com]
                Also, what makes you think that that larger objects do not experience a "cosmic wind" of ionized particles while they travel through space like our plant does and other larger magnetic fields?

                Scientific discourse has become religious indoctrination these days. Any time someone poses an alternate idea of how something could work they get shouted out of the conversation, their career ruined, and the idea is never even considered, much less tested.
                • That is a very interesting article. Note that the effect was achieved using a carefully constructed silicon crystal. Their ability to alter the light's path electrically is dependant on that changing the properties of the crystal. I tried to find a better abstract, but those are the gross details.
                  Regarding thinking of science as an indoctrination; I encourage you to see for yourself the level of agreement that some of these theories have with observation. They have amazing predictive power and any theory th

                  • The only theories that are put through the rigor you speak of are ones that do not fully agree with the current perspective. If the theory deviates more than slightly from the current model it never gets the chance to experience that rigor because it is dismissed outright and no assets are allowed to be used to pursue testing of the idea.
                    • I'll agree that the burden of proof is on the people making the claim, but isn't that a reasonable division of labor? If a non-mainstream theory is (more) correct than other theories it may not be popular at first but it will be able to provide clear predictions and satisfy deeper mysteries than a less complete or flawed theory.
                      The fact that people don't tend to work on new and radical theories seems to simply be the dual onus of that theory being untested and being less known.
                      Theories in physics are becomi

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          There's no difference between "area where time moves slower" and "gravity well" in general relativity, which shows great robustness as theories go. "Time moves faster" (or a large anti-gravity well) wouldn't cause the lensing we see.

          Anyhow, dark matter explains the CMBR data and galaxy rotation rates and lensing, which is pretty good. Any alternative proposal would need to explain all three.

          • by Agripa ( 139780 )

            I assume "area where time moves slower" cannot be the equivalent of an "area with high dielectric constant" but index graded lenses work fine for bending light.

            • by lgw ( 121541 )

              If there were large areas with different dielectric constants, they would have stars in them, at least occasionally, and we'd have noticed the weird stars.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      My recollection of what Neal DeGrasse Tyson said on one of his podcasts is that matter we cannot see wouldn't explain the "missing mass" because experiments indicate that "dark matter" does not interact with normal matter or photons, except in the form of gravity. I had thought for some time, "perhaps dark matter is just matter for which we have no evidence of its existence because we cannot see it." A hidden black hole would fit the bill there. But what was said on the show completely dispelled that not

    • I was listening to Star Talk again last night and they happened again to talk about dark matter. Neal said that, whatever dark matter is, the apparent characteristics are that it does not interact with normal matter or with itself except by exhibiting gravitational force. Normal matter, he said, attracts other normal matter via gravity and when that attraction brings the objects together, they stick together. Whereas dark matter exerts the gravitational force but does not "stick" to normal matter or to i

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Although we have only detected five of these hidden supermassive black holes, when we extrapolate our results across the whole Universe then the predicted numbers are huge

    I don't know much astronomy, but extrapolating from n=5 to the entire universe seems pretty silly. Perhaps these phenomenon are not uniformly distributed (I am assuming they made that assumption) and they happened to look at special areas.

    • by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Monday July 06, 2015 @05:52PM (#50058199)

      They looked at 9 galaxies and found 5 hidden SMBHs. I guess that's a pretty good case for extrapolation to higher numbers, assuming they picked random galaxies without visible SMBHs at the center and with a type that is not too different from other galaxies. I'm willing to assume they're not completely stupid :)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If 5/9 is reasonable, then I guess the real question is what count would be unreasonable to extrapolate from? Even 1/9 would lead to huge numbers if you extrapolate to the entire universe. There are reportedly hundreds of billions galaxies so even 10% is going to be in the ten billions.

        • From the article: “Although we have only detected five of these hidden supermassive black holes, when we extrapolate our results across the whole Universe then the predicted numbers are huge and in agreement with what we would expect to see.”

          I think they expected to see them, and this extrapolates to, indeed, huge numbers. If they hadn't found any, it wouldn't have proven anything. If they'd find just one, extrapolation is difficult because it might be a lucky shot. But 2 or higher? I think that

  • >> So once these and others like them gobble up all the matter in the universe and then they start to work on each other, will we eventually end up with something akin to the makings of another Big Bang?
    >> Could this be an explanation of the missing mass we currently attribute to dark matter?

    No. No. They "found" these things right in the middle of galaxies, right where everyone else assumed there must be black holes (but couldn't observe directly).

    >> Astrophysicists?

    Or, you could just RT

  • I cannot let a story about supermassive black holes go by without posting this:

    https://youtu.be/pta-gf6JaHQ [youtu.be]

    I'm not someone you would normally think would be a big fan of this music, but a few years ago, I was looking for some music to play in the background when I was playing open world racing video games, like NFS: Most Wanted, etc. One of my students game me a CD/mp3 mix with a bunch of Muse, My Chemical Romance, Meshuggah, some Finnish Dark Metal bands, and some other groups. This led me to make a 2000

  • Coincidence? I think not.

  • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Monday July 06, 2015 @05:20PM (#50057927)

    The summary title directly contradicts the summary text. They predicted ones that they hadn't seen yet. Then they found a way to see them, and it matched up with predictions. How is that "more than we thought" at all?

    C'mon, editors...

    • by Maow ( 620678 )

      The summary title directly contradicts the summary text. They predicted ones that they hadn't seen yet. Then they found a way to see them, and it matched up with predictions. How is that "more than we thought" at all?

      C'mon, editors...

      Indeed, from TFA:

      The scientists pointed NuSTAR at nine candidate hidden supermassive black holes that were thought to be extremely active at the centre of galaxies, but where the full extent of this activity was potentially obscured from view.

      If we simply assume that there's a super-massive black hole at the centre of each galaxy, then they have increased the expected quantity by zero if I understand correctly.

      Obviously that requires an assumption, but otherwise aren't we assuming that there are not super-m

    • Scientists looking for black holes, you won't believe what they found...
    • by meglon ( 1001833 )
      So the proper title should have been: "Universe Sucks More Than We've Ever Seen."
  • Isn't that some more mass that they keep trying to foist off on Dark Matter/Energy?

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

      Isn't that some more mass that they keep trying to foist off on Dark Matter/Energy?

      "They keep trying to foist" - what? Oh you're dismissive of the entire discipline, presumably because you know better. Of course, silly me.

  • From what I understand, we haven't ever "seen" any black holes, let alone super massive ones. What we do see is immense radiation emission coupled with mathematical mass projections that we theorize *may* be black holes. While this is the commonly excepted knowledge, it is far from absolute. There are plenty of related exotic things like dark matter, and mass projections that do not make sense... What we have is another tool apparently able to somehow pierce formerly obscured areas due to dust and gas. Ther

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Correct, we have not seen blackholes/greyholes/whatever. We also have not seen the Sun, all we see are photons emitted by electrons from something, which may or may not really exist. All evidence is indirect evidence, nothing in this Universe may be directly observed.

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