The acclaimed Indian-origin scientist who has discovered cavernous supermassive black holes pulling and devouring celestial objects in a galaxy lying 11 billion light years from our own wants Indian children to get into physics and astronomy.
"I want to talk about my research rather than about myself," said Dr Manda Banerji, a bright young scientist who came to Britain from Kolkata in 2000 to study for her graduate degree at Cambridge University. "Because I want to see kids in India getting interested in physics and astronomy."
There is much excitement in the scientific community. Banerji, who obtained a Phd from University College London, discovered a new population of enormous, rapidly growing supermassive black holes in the early Universe. The largest of these is called ULASJ1234+0907 - named after its position.
It took light from this cosmic monster 11 billion years to reach the earth. With the universe being 13.8 billion years old, "what we are seeing is very early universe - 2 or 3 billion years after the Big Bang (which created the universe)," Banerji told the Hindustan Times.
Banerji conducted the research, using cutting-edge telescope technology, leading a team of scientists at Cambridge. The team is publishing their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Black holes are regions of spacetime where gravity is so extreme it prevents anything, including light, from escaping. The biggest black hole Banerji discovered is one of the largest ever seen. As these largest of the black holes grow (by feeding on stars and other cosmic objects), the theory is that they cause violent collisions between galaxies, throwing up huge amounts of dust and possibly triggering the formation of solar systems. "Whatwe don't understand is how galaxies are formed," says Banerji.
The problem is that these collisions produce so much dust, the black holes become enveloped in them, making observation difficult. But the UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) used by Banerji and colleagues cut through the dust to accurately locate supermassive black holes for the first time.