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Indian scientist at Yale finds earliest black hole

A team of scientists including Indian cosmologist Priyamvada Natarajan at Yale have discovered the earliest black holes found yet, in dramatic findings that may help unravel key mysteries about the universe.

delhi Updated: Jun 16, 2011 21:42 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi

An Indian cosmologist at Yale University and her team of astronomers have discovered the earliest ever black holes – exotic regions in space that eat up everything, including light – in findings that could help unravel some of the most complex mysteries of the universe.

The team of scientists detected high-energy X-rays from the earliest black holes using a technique called "stacking". The technique allows the detection of weak signals emitted by the central black holes of galaxies, the farthest of which are 13 billion light years away from earth.

The distance means that scientists see the these black holes the way they were less than 1 billion years after the Bog Bang that is believed to have led to the creation of the universe.

The scientists found a correlation between the average growth rate of black holes and their galaxies, something not known about the early universe. "This finding tells us there is a symbiotic relationship between black holes and their galaxies that has existed since the dawn of time," said Kevin Schawinski, Yale researcher and lead author of the paper.

The astronomers studied over 250 galaxies previously detected by the Hubble Space Telescope, and tried to dig in to their innards in search of black holes.

Cosmologists like Natarajan then used the observations to study the growth and correlation between the growth and evolution of the black holes and their galaxies – finding a correlation.

"These observations indicate that extremely massive black holes existed 700-800 million years after the Big Bang, which suggests that they were either born massive to start with, or experienced rapid growth bursts," Natarajan said.