The largest map of supermassive black holes ever created

Black holes are the protagonists of hundreds of scientific essays. Their enigmatic nature has made them the protagonists of many science fiction movies about space. Little by little, astronomers have been revealing its mysteries, reaching conclusions such as that in the Milky Way there are between ten and one billion cosmic objects that are difficult to detect and quantify. Despite this difficulty, a group of astronomers has managed to create the largest visual map with 25,000 supermassive black holes.

The largest map of supermassive black holes ever created

At first glance, the image published by researchers at the University of Hamburg in Germany may resemble a starry sky, but the reality is that each white dot represents a supermassive black hole that is swallowing a star millions of light years away.

In search of black holes

It should be noted that black holes are not visible with the usual observing instruments , but can be detected from Earth when they devour a star or approach a cloud of interstellar matter. Consequently, these actions cause them to interact with their creation disc which is made up of gas and dust.

When black holes attract stellar material and strike it down, they emit a large amount of X-rays. These high energy signals can be detected by LOw Frequency ARray (LOFAR). It is a network of radio telescopes that is distributed in 52 stations in different parts of Europe.

The group of astronomers who created this map of black holes used LOFAR to map 4% of the northern hemisphere and thus detect the 25,000 supermassive black holes, giving rise to one of the most detailed celestial maps in the field of so-called low radio frequencies. .

A project led by Huub Röttgerin from the Leiden Observatory together with the rest of the team, point out in the research publication that the ionosphere negatively interfered with the mission of mapping part of the sky in search of black holes. In order to overcome this drawback, the researchers turned to supercomputers with new algorithms to correct the interference caused.

Mapa de agujeros negros supermasivos

Information about the structure of the universe

The plan of the team of researchers from the University of Hamburg is to continue mapping the northern hemisphere , not only to continue looking for supermassive black holes, but also to obtain information about the structure of the universe on a large scale.

“After many years of software development, it’s wonderful to see that it has now really worked,” said astronomer Huub Röttgering of the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands.