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NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a cosmic "ghost" lurking around a distant supermassive black hole. This is the first detection of such a high-energy apparition, and scientists think it is evidence of a huge eruption produced by the black hole.
This discovery presents astronomers with a valuable opportunity to observe phenomena that occurred when the Universe was very young. The X-ray ghost, so-called because a diffuse X-ray source has remained after other radiation from the outburst has died away, is in the Chandra Deep Field-North, one of the deepest X-ray images ever taken. The source, a.k.a. HDF 130, is over 10 billion light years away and existed at a time 3 billion years after the Big Bang, when galaxies and black holes were forming at a high rate.
"We'd seen this fuzzy object a few years ago, but didn't realize until now that we were seeing a ghost", said Andy Fabian of the Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. "It's not out there to haunt us, rather it's telling us something - in this case what was happening in this galaxy billions of year ago."
This is the first X-ray ghost ever seen after the demise of radio-bright jets. Astronomers have observed extensive X-ray emission with a similar origin, but only from galaxies with radio emission on large scales, signifying continued eruptions. In HDF 130, only a point source is detected in radio images, coinciding with the massive elliptical galaxy seen in its optical image. This radio source indicates the presence of a growing supermassive black hole.
"This result hints that the X-ray sky should be littered with such ghosts," said co-author Caitlin Casey, also of Cambridge, "especially if black hole eruptions are as common as we think they are in the early Universe."
The power contained in the black hole eruption was likely to be considerable, equivalent to about a billion supernovas.
Originally posted by adrenochrome
...maybe intergalactic ejaculation, perhaps?
[edit on 8-6-2009 by adrenochrome]